- October 21, 2022
A 52-year-old former pharmaceutical sales representative was sentenced to four years in federal prison Thursday for his role in a kickback scheme to get a doctor to prescribe a spray containing the highly addictive and sometimes deadly opioid fentanyl.
Daniel Tondre was also ordered to forfeit $483,000 and to pay a $25,000 fine.
The Tampa man was convicted in May — along with the prescribing doctor — for conspiring to pay and receive kickbacks and bribes in the form of speaker fees in return for prescribing the fentanyl spray Subsys. Tondre was also convicted of two counts of identification fraud.
The doctor, 59-year-old Steven Chun, was sentenced to 42 months in prison on Dec. 5.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District, Chun owned and ran a Sarasota pain management practice where he prescribed “a large volume of Subsys.” Tondre worked as a sales rep for Insys Therapeutics, the company that manufactured and sold Subsys. He worked in Chun’s territory.
The bribes were paid in the form of fees for appearing at “sham” speaking events organized by Tondre and Insys which were often only attended by Chun’s family, friends and repeat attendees. Signatures for attendees were falsified or forged, prosecutors say.
Chun was paid between $2,400 and $3,000 for each event and in exchange Chun wrote more prescriptions at high dosages for Subsys.
In all, Chun was paid more than $278,000 in kickbacks, and Tondre earned more than $737,000 in salary and sales commissions in just under three years.
According to the indictment, the company was aware of what Tondre was up to. An Insys executive emailed him on March 12, 2013 asking “where is Dr. Chun, we cannot go a single day without a prescription from Dr. Chun. I do not want to hear any excuses, we pay good money here. We need 1 a day from Chun.”
John Kapoor, the company’s founder, was sentenced to more than five years in prison in 2020 “for orchestrating a scheme to bribe practitioners” to get them to prescribe Subsys. Four other executives were also convicted at that time for racketeering conspiracy.
The story of Insys’s practices is the subject of a book by journalist Evan Hughes, “The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup.”
Fentanyl, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, is a “synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine.” It was developed to treat cancer patients but has become popular with opioid users and sometimes mixed with heroin to increase potency. Subsys, prosecutors say, is “an expensive form of liquid fentanyl designed to be applied under the tongue (sublingual spray), allowing it to rapidly enter the bloodstream to help relieve break-through pain in certain cancer patients.”