Jonathan Roper, a pharmaceutical company manager from Commack, was charged in Manhattan federal court on Thursday with violating anti-kickback laws by organizing a program of payments to doctors to get them to prescribe fentanyl spray, a potent opioid.
Roper, 37, and Fernando Serrano, 30, of Manalapan, New Jersey, allegedly used phony “Speaker Programs” to pay fees of $147,000 and $112,000 in 2014 to two Manhattan doctors who were among the largest fentanyl prescribers in the country.
The two doctors, who were not identified, prescribed $3 million and $2 million worth of fentanyl spray reimbursed by private insurance, and an additional $1 million paid for by Medicaid, the government said.
The supposedly educational speaking programs, prosecutors said, were actually social gatherings, and emails from Roper showed him urging his sales force to press doctors receiving fees to prescribe more fentanyl.
“We hire only the best of the best to be apart of our speaker bureau and dropping script counts is what we get in return?” he said in one message.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called fentanyl “incredibly dangerous and highly addictive,” and said Roper and Serrano helped to feed a “devastating surge of opioid addictions by tapping into another age-old addiction, greed.”
The potent drug is approved only for management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients who have developed a tolerance for opioid therapy.
The complaint did not identify by name the pharmaceutical company Roper worked for, but said fentanyl spray was its only FDA-approved product, and generated $330 million in net revenue in 2015.
Bruce Maffeo, a lawyer for Roper, declined to comment on the charges.