fb-pixelInsys jurors horrified at use of rap video to push sales - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Insys jurors horrified at use of rap video to push sales

Subsys rap video
Two young Insys Therapeutics salesmen wearing sunglasses and hoodies danced next to a giant spray bottle of the drug firm’s opioid product Subsys in a rap video (Handout)

Jurors in the racketeering trial of five former executives of Insys Therapeutics were horrified when they saw the slickly produced music video of two salesmen rapping about increasing the dose of the company’s powerful fentanyl spray, Subsys.

“The rap video just makes me sick to my stomach,” said Patricia Hazelton, 52, a food services employee who lives in Bedford.

Hazelton was one of a dozen jurors who on May 2 convicted the former executives of the Arizona company, including company founder John N. Kapoor, of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to bribe doctors into prescribing the highly addictive medication to patients who did not need it.


The five-minute video, made in 2015 to spur Insys employees to push sales of the spray, was a compelling piece of evidence for a jury that reviewed thousands of pages of company e-mails and transcripts of telephone conversations between Insys employees and the insurance companies they were defrauding.

The jury watched the video at least twice during its 15 days of deliberations, Hazelton recalled.

“We wanted to break down what [the rappers] were saying, where it played into the things” the company was doing, she said in an interview.

Especially telling, Hazelton said, was the part of the video in which one of the company’s former executives, Alec Burlakoff, showed up dancing, dressed in a purple-and-white Subsys bottle with a label marked 1,600 micrograms — the maximum dosage for the under-the-tongue spray.

“I couldn’t believe that they were promoting higher doses,” said another juror, Michelle DaCosta, a 37-year-old property manager from Somerset and mother of two. “They didn’t care about the patients. It was all about the money.”

For weeks, lawyers and reporters following the trial speculated about what was happening in the jury room, wondering if there was a hopeless deadlock.

Yet Hazelton described a collegial environment in which jurors, who included academics, a Walmart cashier, and a utility repair person, baked brownies for each other and bonded over lunches of pasta salad, pizza, and sandwiches. One juror brought in bacon for the rest of the group that was cooked in a microwave near the deliberating room.


Some jurors sat on the floor, pulling documents from the boxes of evidence, while others reviewed testimony on a television screen brought into the room. Many of them relied on the pages and pages of notes they took throughout the trial — DaCosta said hers filled eight notebooks.

“We had a good group,” Hazelton said.

The jury was swayed by troves of company e-mails that showed how Insys executives pushed the sales representatives to pressure and bribe doctors and recorded phone calls that showed Insys employees lying to insurers about patients’ conditions, the jurors said.

“They were buying the doctors,” Hazelton said. “It was so clear they were buying the doctors.”

After delivering the verdict on Thursday, most of the jury went to the Barking Crab restaurant near the courthouse to decompress over seafood and drinks, DaCosta said.

“It was intense at times,” she said of the deliberations.

After the trial was over, Hazelton said she reviewed some of the media coverage and took notice of reports that the jury was taking an unusually long time to reach a verdict.

“People are like, ‘Why weren’t they done in three or four days,’ ” she said. “If we had been done in three days, you would have said we jumped to conclusions. We didn’t jump to conclusions. We had five defendants. We weren’t rushing.”


The verdict was decisive: Four of the five defendants were found to have committed at least 15 acts of racketeering conspiracy, including illegal distribution of a controlled substance and wire and mail fraud.

Michael Gurry, the former vice president of managed markets who oversaw the company’s reimbursement center, was found guilty of fraud but was acquitted of drug charges because he did not have direct dealings with the doctors, Hazelton said.

She said the jury was especially moved by the testimony of patients who described how addicted they became to Subsys, a drug meant to treat the severe pain of patients with cancer.

“It was heart-wrenching to see these patients,” Hazelton said. But she also felt some sympathy for the defendants, who each face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“They all have families, too,” she said. “I’m not ignorant to any of that, but you also made a choice to do what you did.”

It was a feeling shared by DaCosta, who was mystified by Kapoor’s decisions to engage in the conspiracy and risk his enormous fortune.

“He was successful,” said DaCosta, who traveled two hours each way from Somerset to the federal courthouse in Boston during the trial. “Why did he have to stoop this low?”

Ryan Paul, an alternate juror who sat through the trial but was not involved in the deliberations, was present for the verdict and believed it was the right decision.


“That group was very dedicated,” said Paul, 33, a social media strategist who joined the jury at the Barking Crab. “I can’t imagine there was someone who didn’t agree and went along for the ride.”

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @globemcramer. Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.