US authorities have arrested the billionaire founder of a drug company along with charged him with leading a conspiracy to bribe doctors to over-prescribe a powerful painkiller.
The arrest of Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor follows years of investigation along with actions against more than a dozen former Insys staff.
Mr Kapoor has vowed to fight the charges.
The suit comes as the US grapples with rising deaths tied to opioid abuse.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump identified the problem as a public health emergency.
William D Weinreb, acting US attorney in Massachusetts, said the charges, filed on Thursday, showed authorities are attacking the opioid problem at many levels.
“We must hold the industry along with its leadership accountable – just as we would certainly the cartels or a street-level drug dealer,” he said.
An attorney for Mr Kapoor, 74, said he was innocent. He faces prison time along with different penalties if found guilty.
Insys declined to comment. Shares inside firm – once a fast-rising stock – plunged by more than 20% after the charges were announced.
What are the charges?
Prosecutors said Mr Kapoor led the drug company’s efforts to boost sales of Subsys, a spray intended for cancer patients experiencing intense pain. Subsys contains fentanyl, which can be addictive.
They said the firm offered kickbacks along with bribes to doctors along with pharmacists who wrote “large numbers” of prescriptions for people who had not been diagnosed with cancer.
They said they also worked to defraud insurance companies over reimbursements for the medication.
Insys told investors in August in which the item has already paid millions of dollars to settle state investigations of practices related to Subsys along with could pay more.
Mr Kapoor’s charges add to a case filed against six top managers last year.