Wife of former Insys CEO pleads guilty to her part in kickback scheme

Insys Therapeutics Subsys
Two former saleswomen at Insys, maker of the sublingual opioid painkiller Subsys, have pleaded guilty to charges related to a scheme the company used to bribe doctors to sell the highly addictive drug.

The convictions are piling up in the federal investigation of opioid pain drug maker Insys Therapeutics as two former saleswomen have now copped to charges that they took part in a kickback scheme designed to push sales of Subsys.

Natalie Levine, the wife of the former Insys CEO Michael Babich, pleaded guilty in federal court in Connecticut to one count of conspiring to violate the anti-kickback law. She was accused of being part of a scheme in which doctors were paid fees of thousands of dollars to attend “sham” programs to hear about the drug, according to the U.S. Attorney there.

Separately, Karen Hill, who was Insys’ district manager for the Miami, Florida, region, pleaded guilty in federal court in Alabama, also to conspiracy to violate the same anti-kickback law, Reuters reports, citing court records.

Both women face up to five years in jail.

RELATED: Insys's 'reckless' Subsys marketing led to patient's death, lawsuit alleges

Subsys is a spray form of the high-powered painkiller fentanyl that was approved only for use in cancer patients. But prosecutors have alleged the company pushed it hard for off-label use in treating pain from other sources. Insys has said it is working toward a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. 

According to a civil lawsuit filed against Insys, salespeople targeted doctors they knew weren’t treating patients with cancer pain and more than 80% of Subsys scripts were off-label by the end of 2015.

Federal prosecutors last year charged Babich and six others in the case, including ex-sales manager Jeffrey Pearlman, who has acknowledged himself to having had an opioid addiction. A federal judge this week denied Pearlman’s request to have his bail conditions revised so he could continue to use medical marijuana for the treatment of his opioid dependency, Reuters reported.

RELATED:’Bribes,' 'kickbacks,' and 'fantastic' nights get ex-Insys CEO, execs indicted for conspiracy

The pleas Tuesday by Hill and Levine follow one last year by another former saleswoman at Insys, as well as a Connecticut nurse who admitted she collected $83,000 worth of fees from Insys for being the speaker at events, sometimes attended only by an Insys sales rep. She became a top prescriber of the drug.