Former Insys exec blames sexism in Big Pharma for role in opioid scheme

Jan. 22, 2020

Sunrise Lee, an exotic dancer-turned-sales-exec for Insys Therapeutics, became the fourth person from the company to be sentenced to prison this week for a kickback scheme involving an opioid product.

In a court filing, Lee’s attorney argued that Lee didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she began pushing Subsys — a powerful fentanyl spray approved for cancer pain — to doctors for off-label uses. Lee was accused of giving a lap dance to a doctor at a supposed “educational” event for the company, which her lawyer contended was the “next unethical but logical step” in an industry that exploits young female executives.

“While Big Pharma is quick to use women for their ability to sell products to lonely overworked physicians, the same women are easily dispatched and demonized when they are exposed for doing the exact job that they were hired to do,” Lee’s lawyer said.

Prosecutors recommended seven years in prison for Lee, but she was ultimately sentenced to one year and a day. 

In June, Insys agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal governments civil and criminal investigations into how the company sold Subsys. In May, the company’s former CEO became the first-ever executive from a drug company convicted for over-selling opioids. The company has since filed for bankruptcy.

Read the Boston Globe report.