prison Photo courtesy of Johanna Huckeba, Cronkite News.

The billionaire joins four of his colleagues found guilty of pushing drugs for profit.

John Kapoor, founder and former chairman of Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, will serve 5 ½ years in prison for business practices that sought to profit off of the country’s ongoing opioid crisis.

On Thursday, prosecutors pinned responsibility for the company’s illegal practices squarely on Kapoor at the sentencing hearing. They had recommended a 15-year prison sentence for his involvement in the illegal distribution of fentanyl and for conspiring to fraudulently market products to turn a profit.

“This was in every way a top-down conspiracy that John Kapoor ran,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Yeager said at the hearing. “He was already a billionaire when this started, and this made him even richer.”

First arrested and charged in 2017, Kapoor was one of the wealthiest individuals in Arizona. However, he fell off the list of the state’s richest residents as his criminal behavior negatively impacted the company, resulting in the announcement of its closure this month.

The Arizona billionaire was then found guilty in May 2019. Four of Kapoor’s fellow pharma execs from Insys have pled guilty as a result of the investigation, and the 10-week trial revealed a company with a history of illegal kickbacks, sexual misconduct, and pressuring doctors to prescribe Insys products. 

Evidence included testimony from doctors, patients, and colleagues who worked with Kapoor, as well as a rap video the company used to encourage doctors to prescribe generous amounts of their drugs.

“Build relationships that are healthy. Got more docs than Janelle’s got selfies,” actors in the video sing, joined by someone dressed up like a giant bottle of fentanyl spray. “What we built here can’t be debated. Shout to Kapoor for what he created.”

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutors invited several patients to share their stories on how Insys’ illegal practices impacted their lives. Although he showed some remorse for his actions, Kapoor pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“I’m heartbroken by the words of the patients who spoke here today and those who spoke at the trial,” he said. “I sincerely apologize to them and their families.”

Although she took Kapoor’s age of 76 into account, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs sentenced Kapoor to 5 ½ years in prison for the harm caused by his company. Kapoor did receive the longest sentence in the case, and must report to prison on March 5.