RI Sales Rep for Insys Therapeutics Pleads Guilty to Role in Kickback Scheme

Thursday, July 13, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team

Insys Therapeutics
A Rhode Island sales rep for the drug company Insys Therapeutics pleaded guilty to a role in a kickback scheme related to fentanyl spray prescriptions that defrauded federal healthcare programs. The guilty plea was announced by Deirdre Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. 

Natalie Levine, 33, of Arizona was responsible for covering the territories including Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Levine pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. 

Judge Michael P. Shea scheduled sentencing for October 5, 2017.

The Investigation

According to court documents and statements made in court, from approximately March 2013 to October 2014, Levine was employed by Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that manufactured and sold Subsys, a fentanyl-based sublingual spray that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration solely for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. 

In pleading guilty, Levine admitted that she induced certain medical practitioners, including an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in Connecticut, a physician’s assistant (PA) in New Hampshire, and a physician in Rhode Island, to prescribe Subsys by paying them to participate in hundreds of sham “Speaker Programs.” 

The Speaker Programs, which were typically held at high-end restaurants, were designed to gather licensed healthcare professionals who had the capacity to prescribe Subsys and educate them about the drug. In truth, the events were usually just a gathering of friends and co-workers, most of whom did not have the ability to prescribe Subsys, and no educational component took place. 

“Speakers” were paid a fee that ranged from $1,000 to several thousand dollars for attending these dinners. At times, the sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were forged so as to make it appear that the programs had an appropriate audience of healthcare professionals.

The medical practitioners were paid thousands of dollars in illegal kickbacks in order to prescribe Subsys, and induce others to prescribe Subsys, over similar medications. Medicare Part D plans authorized payment for hundreds of Subsys prescriptions written by the three medical practitioners, resulting in a loss of approximately $4.5 million. 

U.S. Attorney Daly encouraged individuals who suspect health care fraud to report it by calling the Health Care Fraud Task Force (203) 785-9270 or 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

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