May 28, 2019 ADVENTURES IN THE LAW

When Your Drug Testifies Against You

By Norman G. Tabler, Jr.

Here’s something you don’t see—or hear—very often. In a drug racketeering trial in Boston, the drug testified for the prosecution. That’s right: the drug testified—by video. What’s more, the drug sang its testimony—in rap, to be precise—and danced as it sang.

Five former executives with Insys Therapeutics are charged with racketeering in connection with the highly addictive opioid fentanyl. They’re accused of using various kickback schemes to induce doctors to prescribe—and maybe overprescribe—the drug. Charges include hiring a former stripper as a sales manager—a sales manager who could dance on the laps of physicians as an inducement to prescribe fentanyl.

But back to the singing drug. The prosecution played a video titled Great by Choice. The video, created for a 2015 Insys national sales meeting, starred a six-foot-tall can of fentanyl spray prominently labelled 1,600 micrograms (the maximum dosage) dancing and singing its own praises. The song was a paean to the benefits of persuading doctors to prescribe fentanyl. Lyrics included lines like:

You think you’re bad, well I’m the baddest/
I was created in a lab in the land of the cactus.

The chorus was a salute to titration, a process to quickly increase dosages. It went:

I love titration. Yeah, it’s not a problem.
I got new patients, and I got a lot of ‘em.

To give credit where credit is due, the highly percussive beat was a rip-off of rapper A$AP Rocky’s Fu**in’ Problems. At least one juror was observed bobbing her head in time to the catchy beat.

The man in the spray-can costume was Alec Burlakoff, Insys VP of marketing. If you’re thinking of hiring Alec for your next company party, you’ll need to wait a while. He has pleaded guilty to racketeering.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The case is U.S. v. Kapoor, D.Mass.

Author

Norman G. Tabler, Jr., is a retired partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, where he led the firm’s health law practice. He serves on the editorial advisory boards of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division’s Voice of Experience and the ABA Health Law Section’s The Health Lawyer. He is the host of the American Health Lawyers podcast The Lighter Side of Health Law. He was educated at Princeton (A.B.), Yale (M.A.), and Columbia (J.D.). He may be reached at Norman.Tabler@FaegreBD.com.