A former regional sales director for Insys Therapeutics allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor as the company was pushing him to prescribe its deadly opioid painkiller to patients. That’s according to multiple reports of testimony given Tuesday from a former Insys colleague in a federal court in Boston.
The testimony is part of a federal racketeering trial getting underway this week against Insys founder John Kapoor and four former executives, including the sales director, Sunrise Lee. Federal prosecutors allege that the Insys executives used bribes and kickbacks to get doctors to prescribe the company’s powerful and addictive fentanyl spray, called Subsys—which was intended only for cancer patients experiencing pain that’s not alleviated by other medications (aka “breakthrough pain”). The former executives are also accused of misleading and defrauding health insurance companies that ended up covering the drug for patients who did not need it. A congressional investigation in 2017 concluded that Insys sales representatives bluntly lied and tricked insurers to do that—and the investigators released the tapes to prove it.
Two additional former Insys executives—former Insys CEO and President Michael Babich and former Vice President of Sales Alec Burlakoff—were also charged in the case but have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.
In testimony Tuesday against the rest, former sales representative Holly Brown made the lap-dancing allegation against her former boss, Lee. Brown testified that in mid-2012 she, Lee, and other sale representatives took one Dr. Paul Madison to a club after a dinner event sponsored by Insys. Brown said that her superiors had told her to focus on Dr. Madison, who was known for prescribing a lot of opioids. She described his office as a “shady pill mill” in a “dingy strip mall in a not-so-nice area of town,” according to reports.
Brown recalled an encounter she witnessed that night between Lee and Madison, saying, “She was sitting on his lap, kind of bouncing around, and he had his hands all over her chest.’’
Lee, a former stripper, had no experience in the pharmaceutical industry before working at Insys, prosecutors noted. According to Bloomberg, court documents reveal that Insys whistle-blowers quoted Burlakoff as saying that “doctors really enjoyed spending time with [Lee]” and that she was “more of a closer.”
Brown echoed the idea, saying in her testimony that Lee played up her sexuality during sales pitches. She dressed in a “sexually suggestive manner’’ and “showed more cleavage than the average sales rep,’’ Brown said.
Prosecutors reported that Insys paid Madison at least $70,800 in “speaker fees.”
Madison was convicted last November in a separate trial for healthcare fraud, among other charges. He is awaiting sentencing in March and faces up to 10 years in prison.
The trial involving Lee and the other Insys executives is expected to last several months.