President Donald Trump’s plans to tackle opioid abuse in America took a crucial step forward when Dr. Gordon Freedman was found guilty of violating anti-kickback laws in prescribing opioids to patients.
Trump has repeatedly confirmed his commitment to battling the opioid crisis, most recently pledging $1.8 billion in funding to expand treatment programs and reduce overdose deaths. Crackdowns on illegal prescriptions of opioids have also expanded, and Freedman is one of many doctors facing years in prison for their role in the crisis.
Freedman and others received massive payments
Dr. Freedman had written the fourth-highest number of prescriptions for Subsys, a potent fentanyl spray intended to be used by cancer patients. Dr. Freedman is a board-certified anesthesiologist that was operating a pain management clinic in Manhatten, New York.
These prescriptions were part of a kickback scheme that Dr. Freedman and other doctors were taking part in. They would prescribe these highly addictive opioids and receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies.
The payments were disguised as speakers’ fees, which seem to be a popular way to move huge sums of money in an innocuous way. The profits exceeded a million dollars on the part of the supplier of Subsys, easily covering the bribes that were paid to Dr. Freedman.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman stated, “Dr. Gordon Freedman sold out his patients by prescribing a powerful and dangerous fentanyl opioid in exchange for bribes from the pharmaceutical company that manufactured that drug.”
Four other Manhattan doctors were also charged with similar crimes. Freedman has been scheduled for sentencing in March of 2020.
High priced corruption
Dr. Freedman and his associates were paid via speaker fees for events meant to educate healthcare providers about Subsys but were known more for the rampant cocaine and alcohol abuse than actual education.
This situation in New York really draws attention to the widespread corruption rampant across the nation. The opioid crisis was declared a national emergency in 2017, and while the Trump administration has made much progress in battling the issue, it doesn’t stop here.
With this conviction comes the question, what other pharmaceutical companies are paying out thousands in kickbacks to doctors disguised as speaker’s fees?
Berman remarked, “These prominent doctors swore a solemn oath to place their patients’ care above all else. Instead, they engaged in a malignant scheme to prescribe fentanyl … in exchange for bribes in the form of speakers fees.”
Over-prescription of opioids contributes to thousands of overdose deaths nationwide. In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, more than any other year previously. However, according to the White House, “between President Trump’s Inauguration and October 2018, high-dose opioid prescriptions fell by 16 percent.”