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Pharmaceutical execs "got away with murder," says mom of overdose victim

CBSNews

The prison sentence given to the pharmaceutical executive who helped fuel the opioid crisis "wasn't fair," the mother of a woman who died of an overdose said. Deb Fuller was at the Boston courthouse Thursday, where Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor was sentenced to five and a half years for his role in bribing doctors to prescribe the powerful painkiller Subsys.

"I don't think it was fair. It wasn't fair to all the victims," Fuller told CBS News consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner.

Fuller said she was at the sentencing for her daughter, who was 32 when she overdosed.

"I'm doing this for Sarah because she deserves to be heard," she said. "Since she can't be here herself then I will be here for her, so that he can hear just how he destroyed her life, our lives."

Kapoor, 76, was convicted for mail and wire fraud for his part in what prosecutors said was a nationwide conspiracy to boost sales of Subsys by bribing doctors to prescribe the drug to patients who should never have received it. The drug was only approved by the FDA for breakthrough cancer pain. FDA data shows more than 8,000 people died after taking Subsys.

Prosecutors had asked for a 15-year sentence for Kapoor. The judge gave him five and a half years.

At the hearing, where seven victims or their relatives told how the drug ruined their lives, Kapoor turned to them and said, "I'm so sorry for your suffering. I can feel it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nat Yeager called Kapoor's remarks "hollow."

"I was offended by John Kapoor's statement. I don't see how anyone would listen to what he had to say and believe him. I thought his words rang hollow," he said. "I think that he was absolutely driven by greed, by the desire for money, the desire of being the best in the industry, and I don't think he cared at all about the patients."

Former Insys Therapeutics Vice President of Sales Alec Burlakoff, who was featured in a video of company employees rapping about increasing sales, also was sentenced. He got a shorter term of 26 months in prison, reflecting the fact that he cooperated with prosecutors.

Outside the courthouse, when asked if there was anything he would say to families of people who overdosed on Subsys, he said, "I'm sorry, very sorry."

Four other executives received sentences ranging from a year and a day to 33 months, not long enough for many families.

"They all got away with murder because that's exactly what they did because it's more than Sarah that died from it," Fuller said.

Prosecutors believe this trial, which used RICO conspiracy statutes traditionally used in mob prosecutions to go after the company and executives, will make a positive difference in future prosecutions of opioid cases.

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