Opioids have killed as many or more people in the 2000s as crack and heroin did in the 1970s and 1980s, and in fact, the epidemic of death continues to this day — though the Trump administration is finally making some progress to combat it.
As The National Sentinel reported this month, after 30 years of escalating deaths from opioid overdoses, the numbers are finally falling for the first time. In all, total drug overdoses from opioids have declined about 5 percent from a year ago, the first such decline since 1990.
But there is much more to be done, of course, and that includes holding those who created this hellish nightmare responsible.
Alas, our warped system of justice — such as it is — may not be up to the task.
Millions of Americans who lived through the financial crisis probably recall that not a single executive of a major investment bank was jailed in the aftermath, despite running organizations seemingly dedicated to perpetuating a criminal fraud on nearly every counter-party and client.
But when Americans look back at the opioid crisis, they'll remember that at least one executive of a major opioid manufacturer and distributor was sentenced to a fairly weighty sentence - five-and-a-half years (66 months) in federal prison - for an illegal kickback scheme that effectively involved bribing doctors to prescribe potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
The company, Insys, packaged under brand name Subsys, sold a painkiller that was made from the same super-powerful synthetic opioid that has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across the United States.
And sorry to disagree, but 5 years in prison for Insys founder John Kapoor — he’ll be out in three, probably, if he lives that long — is not nearly enough for a man who is probably responsible for a hefty share of those OD deaths.
According to reports, Kapoor was sentenced last week after being prosecuted in the U.S. under the RICO Act, a racketeering law passed decades ago to give the Justice Department more legal authority to prosecute the Mafia.
Kapoor will join seven other Insys executives who’ve already received prison time for their role in the company’s illegal activities spreading deadly synthetic opioids to unsuspecting doctors and their patients.
Included in their scheme were “ruthless” sales tactics aimed at getting doctors to prescribe more and more of their drug.
That said, not all doctors were saints: Many took money in the form of kickbacks for overprescribing medications that were killing people. They too, are now being prosecuted for their roles. Some have already been sentenced to jail.
On Thursday, Alec Burlakoff, the company’s former sales manager and one of the government’s key cooperating witnesses, accepted a plea deal of 26 months in prison. And while many of these sentences are light by our standards, at least pharmacy executives are being prosecuted. That, in and of itself, is noteworthy, NewsTarget reported.
“Under the company's kick-back scheme, doctors who prescribed large quantities of the drug could earn up to $125,000 a year in speaking fees,” the website reported.
In order to profit off of death, the company relied on what Kapoor called “PHD” sales associates — people who were “poor, hungry, and desperate” or, alternately, “poor, hungry and dumb.”
According to documents prosecutors discovered in the course of their investigation, Kapoor methodically tracked profits. Spreadsheets calculating ROI — return on investment — noted that he wanted $2 in sales for every $1 a doctor received.
Meanwhile, the families of those who lost their loved ones to his dangerous drug are probably not happy with his sentence, either.