PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - A former drug company executive is headed to prison for his role in a bribery scheme prosecutors say fueled the nation's opioid epidemic.
Prosecutors say Insys Therapeutics paid millions in kickbacks to doctors, including one in the Lehigh Valley, to overprescribe a powerful, addictive painkiller.
Michael Gurry, a former vice president at Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced to nearly three years in federal prison for his role in the scheme. He's the first of seven former company leaders being sentenced this month.
A doctor who practiced in Phillipsburg is also awaiting his fate.
Kenneth Sun, 58, from Easton was a doctor in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In November, Sun pleaded guilty to federal bribery and kickback charges in connection with a scheme to defraud Medicare.
Sun admitted to receiving money from Insys Therapeutics and inappropriately prescribing a drug from 2012-2016 called "Subsys." "Subsys" contains fentanyl, is approximately 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, and is designed for a select group of cancer patients.
But because the group was so small, the company artificially expanded the market of those who could receive the drug and paid Sun and other doctors to carry out the scheme.
Prosecutors say Sun carefully chose his victims. He preyed on non-cancer patients, who had a history of alcohol abuse and suicide attempts and would became addicted to Subsys.
Court paperwork says the company disguised the kickbacks and bribes by lying about how they were paying Sun, saying he was being paid for speaking engagements.
In total, Sun was paid more than $140,000 from Insys and defrauded Medicare for close to $850,000.
Dr. Sun is set to be sentenced late next month. He is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sun also has to pay full restitution nearing $850,000.