Drug Company Sales Rep Admits Role in Kickback Scheme Related to Fentanyl Spray Prescriptions
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that NATALIE LEVINE, 33, of Scottsdale, Arizona, waived her right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to one count of engaging in a kickback scheme that defrauded federal healthcare programs.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from approximately March 2013 to October 2014, LEVINE was employed by Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that manufactured and sold Subsys, a fentanyl-based sublingual spray that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration solely for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. LEVINE was a sales representative for the company and was responsible for covering the territories that included Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
In pleading guilty, LEVINE admitted that she induced certain medical practitioners, including an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in Connecticut, a physician’s assistant (PA) in New Hampshire, and a physician in Rhode Island, to prescribe Subsys by paying them to participate in hundreds of sham “Speaker Programs.” The Speaker Programs, which were typically held at high-end restaurants, were ostensibly designed to gather licensed healthcare professionals who had the capacity to prescribe Subsys and educate them about the drug. In truth, the events were usually just a gathering of friends and co-workers, most of whom did not have the ability to prescribe Subsys, and no educational component took place. “Speakers” were paid a fee that ranged from $1,000 to several thousand dollars for attending these dinners. At times, the sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were forged so as to make it appear that the programs had an appropriate audience of healthcare professionals.
The medical practitioners were paid thousands of dollars in illegal kickbacks in order to prescribe Subsys, and induce others to prescribe Subsys, over similar medications. Medicare Part D plans authorized payment for hundreds of Subsys prescriptions written by the three medical practitioners, resulting in a loss of approximately $4.5 million.
LEVINE pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Judge Shea scheduled sentencing for October 5, 2017.
This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas P. Morabito and Richard M. Molot.
Several other individuals affiliated with Insys Therapeutics, and medical practitioners involved in this kickback scheme, have been charged in the District of Connecticut and in other Districts across the United States.
U.S. Attorney Daly encouraged individuals who suspect health care fraud to report it by calling the Health Care Fraud Task Force (203) 785-9270 or 1-800-HHS-TIPS.