The latest American Greed digs into the pharmaceutical business, which as longtime viewers of the CNBC series know, is rife for stories about crime. “Big Pharma,” as it’s called, means big money—and whenever big money is at stake, there’s room for corruption.
This particular case surrounds John Kapoor, who faced criminal charges as he stood accused of bribing doctors to push a dangerous drug called Subsys. But within minutes of the opening credits, American Greed reveals that Kapoor’s shady business practices go back to the 1980’s. This isn’t the prototypical case of getting to the top and then having it go to someone’s head; he’s been playing a dangerous game since well before he founded InSys Therapeutics, then released Subsys in 2012. Subsys is a spray version of fentanyl, which is now one of the most high-risk narcotics for both addiction and death.
“Fall of an Opioid Mogul” is also interesting because it’s one of the episodes built around the testimony of someone on the inside. InSys’ former vice president of sales, Alec Burlakoff, has no problem going on the record to rip his one-time boss to shreds (although he’s equally unforgiving of himself). American Greed has had people talk about their bosses and colleagues before, but it’s usually select quotes sprinkled throughout the narrative; in this week’s episode, Burlakoff’s anecdotes are the most important piece of the story.
But the series makes clear that the company only serves as the roots of the poison tree. There’s a sales force that will stop at nothing to close a deal. There are doctors who are happy to do nothing but prescribe drugs, especially when they’re getting compensated on the backend with phony speaking engagement fees. Some are making well into six figures, with one repeat offender writing over 500 Subsys prescriptions. Plenty of people have unclean hands in this story and American Greed points all of them out.
Things become really creepy in the second half of the hour, when the show reveals how Kapoor was so money-obsessed that he had incentives for doctors who prescribed higher doses—because that would lead patients to become possibly addicted. One patient’s story goes far beyond the usual heartbreaking impact statements seen on the series, and into actual threats to take Subsys…or else. It only gets more disturbing from there.
American Greed always has stories that are nearly unbelievable—some of them in the sense that they make you angry, others in the sense that you almost want to laugh because they’re so out there. “Fall of an Opioid Mogul” will make the audience completely uncomfortable, between its blatantly ruthless tactics and Burlakoff’s impassioned indictment of his former career path. So far, it’s the best episode of the new season.
American Greed airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on CNBC.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.