Five Manhattan doctors were reported to take bribe by a pharmaceutical company to prescribe opioids to the patients whether they needed it or not, according to an indictment handed up Friday in federal court.
The money was earmarked as “speaker fees” for educational lectures on the drug that the doctors had agreed to give to medical professionals. In reality, according to federal prosecutors, the “lectures” were just booze-fueled social gatherings, and the fees were kickbacks paid to prescribe the drug, Subsys.
The lucrative scam enjoyed by five Upper East Side doctors included six-figure kickbacks and more: Cocaine, booze, strippers and weed, prosecutors charge.
The sordid details were spelled out Friday in a federal indictment charging the quintet with collecting huge sham speaking fees as payback for over-prescribing a highly-addictive fentanyl spray.
The benefits for Drs. Gordon Freedman and Todd Schlifstein included prosecutors say: perks, tickets to sporting events, free meals delivered to their office workers, casino, night club and strip club extravaganza where a senior pharmaceutical exec spent $4,100 on liquor and lap dances, officials charged.
On Friday, the five physicians, several of whom are affiliated with prestigious hospitals, were indicted on conspiracy and other charges that carry up to 20 years in prison. Drs. Gordon Freedman, Jeffrey Goldstein, Todd Schlifstein, Dialecti Voudouris and Alexandru Burducea all pleaded not guilty and were released on $200,000 bond each.
At the same time, prosecutors unsealed the guilty pleas of two former Insys executives, Jonathan Roper and Fernando Serrano, who were charged last year and are now cooperating. The company’s billionaire founder, John Kapoor, and other Insys officials and employees are also under indictment in a scandal that has been unfolding since 2014.
The 75-page indictment, unsealed Friday in New York, alleges that as the doctors pocketed more money from Insys, the more Subsys they prescribed.
In the last three months of 2014 alone, the 57-year-old Mount Kisco resident then wrote $1.1 million of prescriptions for the spray, authorities charged.Prosecutors said Freedman received approximately $308,000 in “speaker program fees” and by the last quarter of 2014 was the fourth-highest prescriber of Subsys in the nation, accounting for more than $1 million in sales.
In a statement, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman noted that the doctors had sworn a “solemn oath” to put their patients’ care above all else.
“Instead, they engaged in a malignant scheme to prescribe fentanyl, a dangerous and potentially fatal narcotic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, in exchange for bribes in the form of speaker fees,” he said.