Do speaking fees equal bribery? Prosecutors may think so.

One of five New York doctors charged in 2018 with taking bribes from an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company has been sentenced to two years in federal prison by a United States District Court judge.

Just two years before, in 2016, the same doctor was honored by the New York State Assembly for his role in creating the New York State Pain Society and bringing relief to hundreds or thousands of patients suffering from chronic pain. However, that honor may have put the doctor on law enforcement’s radar in the ongoing rush to stop the problems with opioid abuse throughout the nation.

Prosecutors claim that the five doctors formed the “Speakers Bureau” run by Insys Therapeutics Inc. Ostensibly organized to help educate other doctors about the company’s fentanyl-based nasal spray in the use of chronic pain management, federal authorities now say that the Bureau was nothing more than a way to funnel money to the doctors. In turn, the doctors were expected to prescribe the company’s nasal spray — a drug more powerful than morphine — to as many patients as possible.

The doctors were supposed to attend company-sponsored events where they where they were expected to conduct presentations to other physicians. However, prosecutors say that the events were mostly social gatherings without any educational value — although the doctors were paid large “speaking fees,” anyhow.

All five doctors initially entered “not guilty” pleas in the case but this particular doctor decided to change his plea in return for the two-year sentence. Cases like this should serve as a warning to anyone with connections to pain drugs and the companies that make them. Prosecutors may take a hard-line approach to anything that seems remotely questionable in the ongoing, aggressive quest to stamp out opioid abuse.

Financial crimes associated with the drug trade are a complex area of law that require an aggressive defense. If you’re facing scrutiny by federal authorities or have already been charged, get legal help today.

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