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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 14, 2019

Manhattan Doctor Pleads Guilty To Accepting Bribes And Kickbacks From Pharmaceutical Company In Exchange For Prescribing Fentanyl Drug

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ALEXANDRU BURDUCEA, a doctor who practiced in Manhattan, pled guilty today to conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute in connection with a scheme to prescribe Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray, in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Subsys’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics (“Insys”).  BURDUCEA pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted today, Alexandru Burducea, a prominent Manhattan pain management doctor, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in speaker fees from Insys in exchange for prescribing large volumes of Insys’s powerful fentanyl-based spray, Subsys.  The corrupting influence of money has no place in medicine, especially when it comes to prescribing fentanyl and other dangerous opioids.  Like many other doctors around the country, Dr. Burducea is now being held to account for his participation in this corrupt kickback scheme.”           

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment against BURDUCEA and filings in related proceedings:

The Insys Speakers Bureau 

Subsys, which is manufactured by Insys, is a powerful painkiller approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved Subsys only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients.  Prescriptions of Subsys typically cost thousands of dollars each month, and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as commercial insurers, reimbursed prescriptions written by BURDUCEA.

In or about August 2012, Insys launched a “Speakers Bureau,” a roster of doctors who would conduct programs (“Speaker Programs”) purportedly aimed at educating other medical practitioners about Subsys.  In reality, Insys used its Speakers Bureau to induce the doctors who served as speakers to prescribe large volumes of Subsys by paying them Speaker Program fees.  Speakers were supposed to conduct an educational slide presentation for other health care practitioners at each Speaker Program.  In reality, many of the Speaker Programs were predominantly social affairs where no educational presentation about Subsys occurred.  Attendance sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were frequently forged by adding the names and signatures of medical practitioners who were not present.

BURDUCEA’s Participation in the Scheme

BURDUCEA, a doctor certified in pain management and anesthesiology, was an Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at a large Manhattan hospital.  BURDUCEA also practiced at an anesthesiology and pain management office associated with the hospital.  From in or about September 2014 until in or about June 2015, BURDUCEA received approximately $68,400 in Speaker Program fees from Insys in exchange for prescribing large volumes of Subsys.  In addition, Insys hired BURDUCEA’s then-girlfriend, now wife, to work as BURDUCEA’s sales representative, and the company paid her large commissions based on the volume of Subsys prescribed by her assigned doctors, including BURDUCEA. 

BURDUCEA, who had never prescribed Subsys before in or about September 2014, became approximately the 14th-highest prescriber of Subsys nationally in the second quarter of 2015, accounting for total net sales of the drug of approximately $621,345 in that quarter.

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BURDUCEA, 42, of Little Neck, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.  BURDUCEA is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on May 22, 2019, at 11:00 a.m.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General for its assistance in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Noah Solowiejczyk and David Abramowicz are in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Press Release Number: 
19-043
Updated February 14, 2019