Manhattan Doctor Sentenced To Nearly Five Years In Prison For Accepting Bribes And Kickbacks 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, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 57 months in prison for conspiring 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. BURDUCEA pled guilty on February 14, 2019, and was sentenced by United States District Judge Kimba M. Wood.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Before September 2014, Alexandru Burducea, a doctor who practiced in Manhattan, had never prescribed Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray. By the second quarter of 2015, however – in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Subsys’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics – Burducea became approximately the 14th-highest prescriber of Subsys in the country. Burducea sacrificed the safety of his patients to satisfy his own greed, and will now spend time in federal prison for his reckless prescribing of this highly addictive and deadly drug.”
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 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 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 health care practitioners who had not actually been 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. He 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, which included 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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In addition to the prison sentence, BURDUCEA, 43, of Little Neck, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $68,400. A restitution order will be entered within 90 days.
BURDUCEA was one of five Manhattan doctors convicted for participating in the Subsys bribery conspiracy. Todd Schlifstein was convicted upon a guilty plea and sentenced by Judge Wood on October 28, 2019, principally to a term of two years in prison. Dialecti Voudouris was convicted upon a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on March 5, 2020. Jeffrey Goldstein was convicted upon a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on March 12, 2020. Gordon Freedman was convicted following a jury trial and is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Wood on March 19, 2020.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI, and thanked HHS OIG for its participation 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.