The former billionaire ex-CEO of an American pharmaceutical company was sentenced to prison along with two other executives for their roles in needlessly pushing their drug in the midst of the US opioid epidemic.

The judge handed a five and a half year sentence to John Kapoor, founder of Insys Therapeutics.  At 76-years of age, it could amount to life in prison.  Insys sales chief Alec Burlakoff was sentenced to 26 months in prison for his role in the bribery and fraud scheme.  The ex-stripper they hired to market their product to doctors, Sunshine Lee, got a year and a day.  All of the sentences were less than what prosecutors had requested.

Insys made and aggressively marketed the potent opioid Subsys, a painkiller that is sprayed in the mouth of the patient.  It was intended for cancer patients having trouble with chemotherapy, at a cost of US$19,000 per month.

Instead, the defendants used "hypersexualized 'Wolf of Wall Street' tactics" to convince doctors to prescribe the company's medication, including to patients who didn't need it.  They then lied to insurance companies to make sure the costly oral fentanyl spray was covered.

This was a landmark trial and verdict for federal prosecutors in Boston, who for the first time used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) - a charge often reserved for mob bosses and drug lords - against pharmaceutical executives for their roles in the opioid crisis.

"It's an important warning to other pharmaceutical manufacturers and executives who may be considering pushing their products through aggressive, and possibly legally dubious, marketing schemes," said Dr. Ameet Sarpatwari, who is also the assistant director of Harvard University's Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law.  "The consequences for such actions may not simply be fines - which has historically simply been the cost of doing business - but possibly jail time."