Insys execs guilty of bribing doctors to push drugs, marking first U.S. conviction in opioids fight

Jury convicts Insys execs for pushing opioids

For the first time ever, U.S. attorneys say they have successfully prosecuted a top pharmaceutical executive in the government's fight against opioids. A federal jury on Thursday convicted Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor and four other former executives of the company. Prosecutors accused them of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray – called Subsys.

One-time billionaire Kapoor was once one of the country's biggest pharmaceutical executives. Thursday's verdict is a sign of the government's mounting efforts to hold drugmakers and distributors accountable for the nationwide opioid crisis.

Among the pieces of evidence presented during the 10-week trial: a five-minute video promoting the fentanyl spray Subsys, featuring an Insys company salesman rapping about prescribing higher drug doses using a process known as "titration."

Prosecutors say the video was just one of the dubious tactics Insys used to boost profits which also included bribing doctors by paying them for sham speaking engagements.

In 2017, CBS News learned Insys made 18,000 payments to doctors in 2016 totaling more than $2 million.

Michael Canty, a former federal prosecutor who has advised states on suing opioid companies, said the prosecution's case had "very good evidence."

"I think that this will send a message to other prosecutors that, look, these are cases that can be brought. If you have the evidence and you can put it before a jury, there's hope you hold those criminally responsible," Canty said.

In a statement, Insys said: "The actions of a select few former employees…are not indicative of the hard work conducted by our talented team today."

An attorney for John Kapoor said they'll continue fight to clear his name. While sentencing dates have not yet been set, racketeering charges carry up to 20 years in prison.