Patients to address court in doctor's opioid kickback scheme

By MarketsAssociated Press

Victims of a scheme in which a doctor prescribed them a highly addictive opioid spray in exchange for kickbacks are expected to tell a federal judge how their lives were affected, including stories of overdoses, monthslong withdrawals, weight loss and broken bones from falling while on the powerful drug.

Jerrold Rosenberg told one patient, "Stop crying, you're acting like a child," when she complained of severe side effects, which included losing 40 pounds and repeated vomiting for years, according to an excerpt of grand jury testimony filed by prosecutors in the case.

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Thursday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Jack McConnell is scheduled to help him determine the severity of Rosenberg's crimes, including the number of victims. Rosenberg pleaded guilty in October to health care fraud and kickbacks conspiracy. He faces a maximum 15 years in prison.

The criminal case is one of several around the country brought against people associated with Insys Therapeutics and the prescribing of Subsys, which is meant only for cancer patients with severe pain. Rosenberg has admitted that he prescribed Subsys to people who didn't have cancer and that he took $188,000 in kickbacks for writing the prescriptions.

In documents filed last week, the U.S. Attorney's office in Providence laid out the stories of several patients who testified before a grand jury that they were hurt by Rosenberg's practices. Among them were two patients who overdosed but survived after receiving the opioid antidote Narcan, according to documents filed in the case.

Rosenberg's lawyer did not immediately return an email seeking comment Monday, but he said in a filing in December that he disputes the number of people hurt by Rosenberg's practices. He also disputes prosecutors' contention about the overdoses, saying there's no evidence the overdoses were caused by Rosenberg's prescriptions.

The patients were not identified by name in court papers.

One 68-year-old patient described the drug as having turned him into "a zombie." He collapsed in Rosenberg's office in July 2013. His wife took him to the hospital, where he was administered with Narcan and diagnosed with opioid intoxication, according to court documents.

Rosenberg's lawyer wrote in court papers that the patient was taking other medications that could have caused lethargy and sedation.

Another patient said she was falling all the time because she was so high on Subsys, according to excerpts of her grand jury testimony. She said she fell nine to 10 times and suffered a number of injuries, including breaking bones from her thumb to her wrist.

"I was killing myself. I was so high," she said.

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This story has been corrected to show the date of the hearing is Thursday, not Wednesday.

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