Fentanyl Pushers: New York Doctors Sentenced to Prison for Bribes, Kickbacks for Prescribing Deadly Drug

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announced Friday that Dr. Alexandru Burducea, a physician who practiced medicine in Manhattan, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to five-years in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, in connection with a scheme to prescribe Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray, in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Subsys’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics.  Burducea pled guilty to the charges on February 14, 2019, and was sentenced by United States District Judge Kimba M. Wood.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Before September 2014, Alexandru Burducea, a doctor who practiced in Manhattan, had never prescribed Subsys, a potent fentanyl-based spray.  By the second quarter of 2015, however – in exchange for bribes and kickbacks from Subsys’s manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics – Burducea became approximately the 14th-highest prescriber of Subsys in the entire United States. According to Berman’s office, Burducea jeopardized the lives of his patients in order to satisfy his own greed.”

The 43-year-old doctor will now spend time in federal prison for his reckless prescribing of this highly addictive and deadly drug. Many critics of the justice system have complained that five years in a federal prison is not enough punishment considering the number of Americans who are dying from overdoses or are physically and psychologically addictive to fentanyl.

This chart shows the potency of three powerful opiods.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic drug that is similar to morphine and heroin but is 50 to 100 times more potent. Fentanyl and its analogs are members of the class of drugs known as rapid-acting synthetic opioids that alleviate pain. Other drugs in this class include fentanyl analogs, such as acetylfentanyl, butyrfentanyl, carfentanil, alfentanil, sufentanil and remifentanil. Fentanyl acts quickly to depress central nervous system and respiratory function. Exposure to fentanyl may be fatal.

According to the allegations contained in the grand jury’s indictment of Burducea and filings in related proceedings:

Subsys, which is manufactured by Insys, is a powerful painkiller approximately 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.  The FDA approved Subsys only for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients.  Prescriptions of Subsys typically cost thousands of dollars each month, and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as commercial insurers, reimbursed prescriptions written by Burducea.

In 2012, Insys executives launched their own “Speakers Bureau,” a roster of doctors who would conduct programs (“Speaker Programs”) purportedly aimed at educating other practitioners about Subsys.

In reality, Insys used its Speakers Bureau to induce the doctors who served as speakers to prescribe large volumes of Subsys by paying them Speaker Program fees.  Speakers were supposed to conduct an educational slide presentation for other health care practitioners at each Speaker Program.

In reality, many of the Speaker Programs were predominantly social affairs where no educational presentation about Subsys occurred.  Attendance sign-in sheets for the Speaker Programs were frequently forged by adding the names and signatures of health care practitioners who had not actually been present.

Former Dr. Alexandru Burducea, was a pain management physician at the Rehabilitation Center of New York.

Burducea, a doctor certified in pain management and anesthesiology, was an Assistant Professor of anesthesiology at a large Manhattan hospital.  He also practiced at an anesthesiology and pain management office associated with the hospital.  From in or about September 2014 until in or about June 2015, he received approximately $68,400 in Speaker Program fees from Insys in exchange for prescribing large volumes of Subsys.  In addition, Insys hired Burducea’s then-girlfriend, now his wife, to work as a sales representative, and the company paid her large commissions based on the volume of Subsys prescribed by her assigned doctors, which included Burducea.

Burducea, who had never prescribed Subsys before September 2014, appeared to suddenly become the 14th-highest prescriber of Subsys nationally in the second quarter of 2015, accounting for total net sales of the drug of approximately $621,345 in that quarter.

In addition to the prison sentence, Burducea, 43, of Little Neck, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $68,400. A restitution order will be entered within 90 days.

Dr. Burducea was one of five Manhattan doctors convicted for participating in the Subsys bribery conspiracy.  Todd Schlifstein was convicted upon a guilty plea and sentenced by Judge Wood on October 28, 2019, principally to a term of two years in prison.  Dialecti Voudouris was convicted upon a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on March 5, 2020.  Jeffrey Goldstein was convicted upon a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wood on March 12, 2020.  Gordon Freedman was convicted following a jury trial and is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Wood on March 19, 2020.

(What Is Carfentanil? Carfentanil is a powerful synthetic opioid used legally as a large-animal tranquilizer, marketed as Wildnil. It’s 100 times stronger than fentanyl, its relative, and 10,000 time stronger than morphine.)


Jim Kouri, CPP, is founder and CEO of Kouri Associates, a homeland security, public safety and political consulting firm. He's formerly Fifth Vice-President, now a Board Member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, a columnist, and a contributor to the nationally syndicated talk-radio program, the Chuck Wilder Show.. He's former chief of police at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at St. Peter's University and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.

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