Insys Therapeutics chief executive and senior managers accused of running a conspiracy to bribe doctors across several states

The chief executive and five former senior executives of US-based pharma company Insys Therapeutics have been arrested on racketeering and bribery-related charges after allegedly paying doctors to prescribe the opioid painkiller Subsys (fentanyl) in order to boost profits.

Subsys was approved in 2012 to treat pain experienced by cancer sufferers, but is highly addictive and can have dangerous side-effects if abused. Extremely high sales of the drug – which brought Insys $329 million (£267 million) last year – raised suspicions about the company’s marketing techniques among federal authorities. Prosecutors allege that Insys chief executive Michael Babich and other senior executives organised hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes and kickback payments to doctors to prescribe Subsys even to patients without cancer. They are also accused of defrauding medical insurance companies who were reluctant to authorise payment for the medication, by setting up a ‘reimbursement unit’ dedicated to securing approval.

All six will appear in US District Court in Boston in the coming weeks.