The investigate public TV program Frontline just released an episode with the above title that looked at how the company Insys Therapeutics deliberately set out to make people addicted to its formulation of the powerful pain killing drug based on fentanyl so that it could make huge profits. Because it is such a powerful addictive (100 times as strong as morphine), the drug is only meant to treat the excruciating pain experienced by certain types of cancer patients but the company, under the direction of its founder John Kapoor, pushed its sales team to bribe doctors to prescribe much more widely and in much larger doses than recommended, resulting in huge profits. Naturally, Wall Street investors did not look too closely at a company that was giving them huge returns on their investments.
One method of bribing of doctors was using so-called ‘speaker fees’, having them give talks to colleagues, the colleagues being induced to attend by giving them free meals and drinks at plush venues. If few or no doctors came for the talks, they would forge attendance figures to justify the fees. The more the doctors prescribed the drug and the larger the doses, the higher the speaker fees and the commissions the sales agents got. Some sales agents even had sex with doctors as part of the inducements. All this was done under the direct instructions from the very top to increase sales by any means necessary.
As a result, a large number of people became addicted to the drug and even died. It was utterly disgusting. The only redeeming feature is that Kapoor and other top executives served jail time for their scheme. If only the top executives at the big banks would get similar treatment.
You can see the 53-minute episode for free.