On July 8, 2021, Gordon Freedman, a doctor who practiced in New York, New York, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 121 months in prison for participating in a scheme to receive bribes and kickbacks in the form of fees for sham educational programs (“Speaker Programs”) from pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics in exchange for prescribing millions of dollars’ worth of Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray manufactured by Insys, among other offenses (the “Insys Bribery Offenses”).
Freedman was convicted of the Insys Bribery Offenses following a jury trial. He was also sentenced to 210 months in prison, to run concurrently to the other sentence, for distributing oxycodone and fentanyl to a patient for no legitimate medical purpose (the “Diversion Offense”). That patient ultimately died of a fentanyl overdose from drugs Freedman illegally prescribed him. Freedman pled guilty to the Diversion Offense in December 2019.
According to the allegations contained in the Indictments, the evidence presented in Court during the trial related to the Insys Bribery Offenses, and filings in related proceedings, Insys manufactured Subsys, a powerful painkiller approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved Subsys only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Prescriptions of Subsys typically cost thousands of dollars each month, and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as commercial insurers, reimbursed prescriptions written by Freedman.
In or about August 2012, Insys launched a “Speakers Bureau,” purportedly aimed at educating practitioners about Subsys. In reality, Insys used its Speakers Bureau to induce doctors to prescribe large volumes of Subsys by paying them Speaker Program fees. At each Speaker Program, speakers were supposed to conduct a slide presentation for other health care practitioners regarding Subsys. However, many of the Speaker Programs led by the speakers paid by Insys were predominantly social affairs where no educational presentation occurred. Attendance sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were frequently forged by adding the names and signatures of health care practitioners who had not actually been present.
Freedman, a doctor certified in pain management and anesthesiology, owned a private pain management office on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and was an associate clinical professor at a large hospital in Manhattan. Freedman received approximately $308,600 in Speaker Program fees from Insys in exchange for prescribing large volumes of Subsys.
Freedman was the fourth-highest prescriber of Subsys nationally in the final quarter of 2014, accounting for approximately $1,132,287 in overall net sales of Subsys in that quarter. During 2014, Freedman was the highest-paid Insys Speaker in the nation, receiving approximately $143,000.
During the period in which Freedman was receiving kickbacks from Insys, he was also distributing powerfully addictive prescription drugs to a particular patient with no legitimate medical purpose. In 2013, Freedman prescribed the patient with approximately 85,427 oxycodone pills – an average of approximately 234 oxycodone pills per day – containing a total of approximately 2,422,435 mg of oxycodone. In April 2017, Freedman gave the patient prescriptions for approximately 150 doses of a drug containing fentanyl, and for approximately 950 oxycodone pills containing approximately 30 mg of oxycodone per pill. In May 2017, the patient died of a fentanyl overdose after ingesting a quantity of the drug prescribed by Freedman.
Freedman was one of five Manhattan doctors convicted for participating in the Subsys bribery conspiracy.
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