Five New York doctors were busted Friday for allegedly pocketing more than $800,000 in kickbacks to prescribe a highly addictive painkiller spray that’s been linked to patient deaths, according to a newly unsealed indictment.
Arizona-based drug company Insys Therapeutics allegedly paid the doctors — Gordon Freedman, Dialecti Voudouris, Jeffrey Goldstein, Todd Schlifstein and Alexandru Burducea – as “speakers” at hundreds of bogus educational presentations between 2012 to 2016, sources and court papers said.
“In reality, many of the speaker programs Freedman, Goldstein, Schlifstein, Voudouris and Burducea conducted were merely social gatherings at high-end restaurants with no educational presentation whatsoever,” the indictment filed in Manhattan federal court said.
In exchange, the doctors allegedly doled out prescriptions for large amounts of Subsys, a pricey fentanyl spray made by Insys that’s prescribed for cancer pain. Fentanyl is an opioid that’s 100 times stronger than morphine.
All of the doctors but Burducea were paid more than $100,000 each in annual “speaker program fees,” with some receiving as much as $3,000 per program, according to the indictment.
All five doctors ranked among the highest paid physicians by Insys in the nation – including Freedman, an anesthesiologist specializing in pain management at Mount Sinai, who earned $308,600 in speaking fees between 2012 and 2015.
Insys – which is only identified in court papers as “Pharma Company-1” – also bribed the docs by picking up the tab on expensive dinners, hockey tickets and Christmas parties, court papers alleged.
After one sham program in 2014, sales reps Fernando Serrano and Jonathan Roper – who are named as co-conspirators in the indictment – allegedly took Goldstein and Schlifstein to a strip club and blew $4,100 on booze and lap dances for the doctors.
Goldstein, an orthopedic surgeon at Fountain Medical Group, and NYU Langone Medical Center physiatrist Schlifstein are accused of turning the speaking programs into their own drug- and alcohol-fueled parties.
Goldstein allegedly smoked marijuana and used cocaine “in the restaurant bathroom” during his programs and Schlifstein drank alcohol “causing him to slur his words,” court papers said. The two doctors also worked together out of the same Upper East Side office.
Roper, a district sales manager for Insys overseeing Manhattan-based sales reps, pushed his employees to target “only doctors who prescribed large quantities” of Subsys as speakers for the programs.
“Almost all of you have speakers, use that to your advantage and repeatedly inform them of one simple guideline for them to follow [Insys] speakers, NO SCRIPTS, NO PROGRAMS,” Roper allegedly wrote in a 2013 email to the reps.
“DONT LET THE DR. SELL YOU, YOU SELL THE DOCTER [SIC]!!” Roper also told them in a 2014 email.
Roper also allegedly gave Voudouris – who specializes in oncology and hematology at Lenox Hill and Mount Sinai — and Burducea an answer key to an online exam that the doctors were required to take in order to prescribe Subsys.
Burducea is a pain management doctor and anesthesiologist who previously worked at Mount Sinai.
Goldstein and Voudouris are also charged with aggravated identity theft for allegedly forging names on sign-in sheets for speaking programs, which were required to have their peers in attendance.
In reality, the seats were sometimes filled with Voudouris’ husband and Goldstein’s accountant – as well as the doctors’ employees and workers from Insys.
The doctors, who were arrested Friday morning by NYPD and FBI agents, will appear in court later Friday.
Insys was previously the subject of a Senate investigation, which found that Subsys was prescribed to patients without cancer. The powerful painkiller was to blame in the overdose death of Sarah Fuller, a New Jersey woman who was being treated for neck and back pain. Her doctor received payments from Insys.
Feds arrested Insys CEO Michael Babich and five other former executives last year for allegedly bribing doctors to prescribe Subsys.
Additional reporting by Tamar Lapin
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