Doctor indicted on charges of overprescribing powerful opioid leading to two deaths.
Dr. Kurt Moran, 68, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has been charged with overprescribing Subsys to thirteen of his patients in exchange for kickback money. He was allegedly paid $140,000 by Insys Therapeutics over a two-year period to prescribe the powerful opioid for pain not related to cancer (its intended use) and disguised the payments as ‘speaking fees.’
Insys has been accused of setting up such arrangements with a multitude of physicians. Dr. Gavin Awerbuch, a Michigan doctor who was convicted of illegally distributing Subsys, testified to the “easy money’’ that helped to persuade him to write unnecessary opioid prescriptions. During his trial, Awerbuch told jurors that he made over $130,000 over the course of just eighteen months by showing up to “educational sessions.” According to Awerbuch, Insys officials would set up speaking engagements “but often couldn’t get any doctors to attend. In those cases, he would have his neighbors and friends show up, while on other occasions, it was just him and a sales rep at the dinner table.” The doctor said, “It was just easy money for me. I got paid $1,600 to show up, have a nice meal and go home.”
In Moran’s case, federal investigators initially raided his practice in 2018, confiscating patient records. United States Attorney David Freed stated, “This defendant, an experienced and substantial dispenser of powerful pain medications, lined his own pockets to the detriment of his patients. He accepted bribes and kickbacks for prescribing medication narrowly approved to treat only cancer patients suffering breakthrough cancer pain. He then concealed and disguised the payments he received for prescribing that drug as compensation for providing educational presentations. In addition, but no less important, Moran improperly prescribed powerful Schedule II controlled substances resulting in two deaths. While physicians are properly given great leeway under the law to treat their patients, we are compelled to intervene when their fraudulent and criminal actions cause harm to others. We are grateful for the thorough investigative work of our federal agency partners.”
Court records show two of Moran’s patients, a 35-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman, overdosed and died as a direct result of the overprescribing. Martin Henehan from Lakeside NEPA, an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center in Pennsylvania, also revealed his wife was a patient of Dr. Moran’s and was prescribed the medication.
Henehan said, “Once we become physically dependent on the drug, it becomes the paramount thing in our lives to continue to get to that comfort level that our minds remember. Taking them as prescribed and then taking more of them when the pain tolerance went up, she continued to take more, and he continued to prescribe more and then more and then more.”
“Dr. Moran was responsible for the criminal distribution of oxycodone and sublingual fentanyl, both of which are extremely powerful and dangerous prescription opioid painkillers. Moran’s unlawful prescribing ultimately resulted in the death of two people,” said Jonathan A. Wilson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Field Division. “Doctors have a legal and ethical obligation to prescribe these medications only for legitimate medical purposes and to do no harm to their patients. The kickbacks that Dr. Moran received for being one of the highest prescribers of sublingual fentanyl in Pennsylvania showed his utter disregard for these same obligations.”
The doctor has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the doctor faces up to life in prison.