Ex-Insys employee pleads guilty in U.S. opioid drug probe


By Nate RaymondBOSTON, June 19 (Reuters) - A former employee of Insys
Therapeutics Inc <INSY.O> pleaded guilty on Monday to having
conspired to defraud insurers into paying for an expensive
fentanyl-based drug that is at the heart of an investigation
into the company.
    Elizabeth Gurrieri, a former manager of reimbursement
services for Arizona-based Insys, entered her plea in federal
court in Boston to one count of wire fraud conspiracy as part of
deal to cooperate with U.S. authorities.
    Gurrieri's cooperation could result in her testifying at a
later trial of six ex-Insys executives and managers, including
former Chief Executive Michael Babich, who prosecutors say
participated in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe the drug,
    Insys has been working toward a settlement with the U.S.
Justice Department in a probe focused on Subsys, an
under-the-tongue spray intended for cancer patients that
contains fentanyl, a highly addictive and regulated synthetic
    As U.S. authorities have sought to combat opioid abuse,
Subsys has become the subject of federal and state
investigations amid allegations that the drug was marketed and
sold to non-cancer patients.
    Prosecutors alleged in December that Babich and others led a
conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily
prescribe Subsys through payments disguised as marketing event
and speaker fees.
    Other defendants include former Insys vice presidents Alec
Burlakoff and Michael Gurry; former national sales director
Richard Simon; and former regional sales directors Sunrise Lee
and Joseph Rowan. All six have pleaded not guilty.
    The case against Gurrieri related to what prosecutors said
was a push by Insys to get insurers to cover the price of
Subsys, which in 2013 cost about $2,340 for 60 units.
    In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Yeager said that
Gurrieri from 2012 to 2015 worked with others to deceive
insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to obtain payment
authorization for Subsys.
    "Ms. Gurrieri specifically directed employees to lie using a
number different methods to mislead insurers," Yeager said.
    In court papers, prosecutors said Insys employees were
taught to mislead insurers about the diagnosis of patients and
whether they had tried and failed other preferred medications.
    Gurrieri also instructed employees to claim a cancer
diagnosis regardless of the patient's history or whether Subsys
was prescribed for a use not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, according to a criminal complaint.
    The cases in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts,
are U.S. v. Babich et al, No. 16-cr-10343, and U.S. v. Gurrieri,
No. 17-cr-10083.

 (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler)
 ((Nate.Raymond@thomsonreuters.com and Twitter @nateraymond;
617-856-1312; Reuters Messaging:

Keywords: INSYS COURT/ (PIX)

This article appears in: Politics , Stocks
Referenced Symbols: INSY

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