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Doctor admits taking kickbacks to prescribe fentanyl spray

A doctor has admitted to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to illegally prescribe a highly-addictive opioid. 

Dr Jerrold Rosenberg, 63, from Rhode Island, pleaded guilty to health care fraud and kickbacks conspiracy in US District Court in Providence today.

This is one of several criminal cases brought around the country against people associated with Insys Therapeutics and the prescribing of Subsys, which is meant only for cancer patients with severe pain.

Dr Rosenberg said that he prescribed Subsys to people who did not have cancer and that he falsified their records so that insurance companies, including Medicare, would pay for the drug.

He is now facing up to 15 years in prison and has agreed to pay $754,736 in restitution to healthcare benefit programs, and he will be sentenced in January.

Dr Jerrold Rosenberg (pictured) in Rhode Island pleaded guilty to prescribing fentanyl to patients who did not need it in order to receive kickbacks from the makers of the drug

Dr Rosenberg also admitted he conspired with Insys executives and others to receive $188,000 in kickbacks for writing the prescriptions through a sham ‘speakers program’.

His practice in Providence and North Providence, Rhode Island, dealt with pain management.

Dr Rosenberg was by far the biggest prescriber of fentanyl spray in his state and one of the top prescribers in the nation, according to the February indictment.

The indictment said Dr Rosenberg refused to switch patients to a different drug when they complained of debilitating side effects from Subsys or when they said it was not working.

A spokesman for Insys, which is based in Arizona, said the company is under new management and has replaced nearly all of its original sales staff.

Pictured is a package of the fentanyl spray Dr Rosenberg prescribed illegally (file photo)

Pictured is a package of the fentanyl spray Dr Rosenberg prescribed illegally (file photo)


Legal versions of fentanyl are prescribed to alleviate severe pain associated with advanced cancer.

Illegally-made fentanyl, which can be ordered from China or bought from Mexico, is often mixed with heroin or cocaine.

Other names for the drug purchased on the dark web or from a trafficker include:

  • Apache
  • China Girl
  • China Town
  • Dance Fever
  • Friend
  • Goodfellas
  • Great Bear
  • He-Man
  • Jackpot
  • King Ivory
  • Murder 8
  • Tango & Cash 

They added that the company is taking responsibility for the actions of its former employees.

‘We have taken necessary and appropriate steps to prevent past mistakes from happening in the future and are committed to conducting business according to high ethical standards and the interests of patients,’ the company said in a statement.

‘We also continue to work with relevant authorities to resolve issues related to the misdeeds of former employees.’

Insys is also facing lawsuits by attorneys general in Arizona and New Jersey. It previously paid $9.45million to resolve investigations by attorneys general in Oregon, New Hampshire, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the alleged fraud has been pivotal in perpetuating the state’s ongoing addiction epidemic.

Brnovich sued three Arizona doctors whom Insys paid on average $200,000 while they wrote prescriptions that generated over $33 million in sales of Subsys from March 2012 to April 2017.

In Massachusetts, former Insys CEO Michael L. Babich and five other former executives and managers have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in October 2018.

Several other former Insys employees and health care providers have also pleaded guilty to felony charges in places around the country, including Alabama and Connecticut. 

Prosecutors said they planned to call some of Dr Rosenberg’s victims, his former patients, to testify during sentencing.

Dr Rosenberg’s son, who has not been charged, was a sales representative for Insys from 2012 to 2013. The majority of his son’s compensation stemmed from commissions he received from his father prescribing the drug, the indictment said.

The physician’s lawyer, Charles Tamulevitz, told the judge that Dr Rosenberg was not admitting to any conspiracy with his son. 


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