A doctor who ran a pain management medical practice has been charged with allegedly taking bribes and kickbacks to prescribe fentanyl to patients.
Kenneth Sun, M.D., 58, of Easton, Pennsylvania, who operated clinics in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was charged with taking more than $140,000 in bribes and kickbacks from Arizona-based pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics. In exchange, he prescribed more than 28 million micrograms of the opioid Subsys, the U.S. Department of Justice alleges.
The indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges Sun received payments from Insys which were disguised as “honoraria” for “sham” educational presentations about Subsys for licensed practitioners, some of which Sun never attended.
As a result of Sun’s actions, Medicare paid more than $847,000 for Subsys prescriptions that were medically unnecessary, procured through the payment of kickbacks and bribes and not eligible for Medicare reimbursement, according to the indictment. In some cases, patients did not desire the drug.
Sun, who owned Progressive Pain Solutions LLC, was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and to pay and receive healthcare kickbacks and four counts of receiving healthcare kickbacks. He was arrested Tuesday and appeared in the federal court for the District of New Jersey. A trial date has not been set. He operated clinics in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, and Wind Gap, Pennsylvania.
He allegedly prescribed Subsys, a fast-acting opioid spray applied under the tongue, to patients for whom it was not medically necessary and for whom the drug was not covered by insurance.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Subsys, which costs thousands of dollars for a month’s supply, only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients, the DOJ said. The drug contains fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever which is approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The indictment said the “sham” educational presentations lacked the appropriate audience of licensed practitioners, did not include a presentation about Subsys and was attended by the same people.
After watching its founder and former CEO convicted on federal racketeering charges, Insys and the Justice Department earlier this month settled for $225 million to end criminal and civil investigations into the alleged kickback scheme to turbocharge scripts of Subsys. As part of the agreement, Insys entered into a five-year deferred prosecution with the federal government, while a subsidiary will plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud.
The settlement closes the book on the government’s aggressive pursuit of Insys and former Insys executives who ran a C-suite-driven plan to funnel money and gifts to doctors through a sham speaker program. Days after the settlement, the company filed for bankruptcy protection.
Sun is just the latest medical practitioner allegedly involved in the alleged kickback scheme to be charged. Medical practitioners have been charged and convicted in Connecticut and in other states.
On Monday, a federal judge in Connecticut sentenced the wife of a former Insys CEO, Michael Babich, to five years of probation for her role in the scheme. Natalie Levine, 35, of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was a sales representative for the company, was ordered to spend the first six months of probation in home confinement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut.