Sunrise Lee was a stripper at Rachel’s in West Palm Beach, Fla., when she danced for a regular who slipped her his number.But Alec Burlakoff was not a lonely customer propositioning her for sex: in reality he was recruiting her to push doctors to over-prescribe highly-addictive opioids.“Dancers are the best sales people,” he told Lee, a single mom of two desperate for a break.Within weeks she was the manager of mid-Atlantic sales for Insys Therapeutics — and part of a brazen bribery ring pushing doctors to prescribe a fentanyl spray in dangerous quantities, and far beyond its intended use.Now Lee’s story is being told in Netflix film “Pain Hustlers,” released Friday and starring Emily Blunt, Chris Evans and Catherine O’Hara.. Blunt plays Liza Drake, a blue-collar single mom who just lost her job and is trying to make ends meet. She lands a job at a failing pharmaceutical company following a chance meeting with sales rep Pete Brenner (Evans) who lures her down a morally-bankrupt path as she becomes a cog in a dangerous racketeering scheme that involves bribing doctors to give out a fentanyl-based drug — a story based on Insys.Insys Therapeutics Subsys spray was approved by the FDA in 2012 solely to give cancer patients relief from intense “breakthrough” pain.But Insys bribed doctors to give it to people who did not have cancer, and then defrauded health insurers who did not want to cover it for non-cancer patients.The corruption plot is the latest chapter of the opioid epidemic to get a screen treatment, after Hulu’s “Dopesick” miniseries which starred Michael Keaton as a doctor who became as addicted as his patients, and Netflix’s “Empire of Pain” about the Sackler family, whose Purdue pharmaceuticals fueled the crisis.Lee went to prison for more than a year for her part in the plot, with a jury hearing that she gave a doctor a lap dance as part of the scheme — although she still protests her innocence.Lee’s part in the opioid crisis began when she danced for Burlakoff in summer 2012. She told him she was saving money for a new life as a Michigan State University student. In return, she said, “I remember him telling me he was a VP sales manager in pharmaceuticals and thought that dancers were the best sales people. It definitely makes sense that he was scouting.” She was hired in September after Burlakoff helped her prepare for the interview for the Scottsdale, Arizona, company. “It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” Lee told The Post. “I thought, ‘I can actually have an opportunity to take care of my kids and let the schooling I did pay off.’” Insys, led by founder John Kapoor, was desperate to join the gold rush unleashed by opioids, and willing to break the law to do it. It wanted doctors to hand out more and more of its spray at higher and higher doses. Executives came up with a system where Insys would hold “speaking events” for doctors who prescribed the drug, paying them fees for taking part.In reality the events were shams. Instead of being paid to speak about their medical practice, they were being given cash to turn up, “speak” to empty rooms then go for lavish dinners which often turned into alcohol-fueled debauches.It was at a drunken nightclub trip in Chicago, after one of the dinners in 2012, that a witness told the trial of Lee, Kapoor and three other Insys executives that the former stripper gave Dr. Paul Madison a lap dance.Madison, jurors heard, ran a “shady operation” in a strip mall — a pill mill — and was later convicted of healthcare fraud for claiming for fake prescriptions.The scheme was busted by feds in 2016 and Lee, who managed a third of the sales team, was one of a series of executives charged with RICO offenses. Kapoor got 66 months, his CEO Michael Babich got 30 months, and three other executives also went to prison. In 2020, Lee was sentenced to a year and a day and served eight months in prison in Kentucky.Lee, now working in security tech sales in Grand Rapids, MI, said she felt she was also a victim of Insys executives. She and Burlakoff had a volatile affair when she worked there.“They had a plan to set up vulnerable, inexperienced, very green people like myself,” Lee told The Post of being recruited by Insys. Now 43, she continues to claim there was little wrong with what she did from 2012 until 2015, saying she had raised concerns about doctors being no-shows at events — one of the ways the bribery scheme worked — but was met with a hostile reception and even threatened with being fired.“I didn’t send money to the doctors, that comes all from the marketing department — why was the marketing department never a part of this? Because I worked at this company where the people were committing the crimes I can be held liable along with them for the wrongdoing.”She told The Post that she was now trying to get her life back on track — an option not open to people who died of fentanyl overdoses.“My life has been hell. It’s better now … but it was bad. It was an absolute nightmare. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same.“It’s hard to put into words but I’m going to try. My heart is broken from it all. “The pain that I feel for every person affected by the opioid crisis will remain rooted in me forever. I pray that this never happens again.”
26 Ekim 2023 - 23:30
Stripper: Pharma firm used me to push fentanyl to doctors — now Emily Blunt’s playing me on Netflix
Sunrise Lee was recruited by a pharma exec who said “dancers are the best sales people.” She was jailed for a massive scheme push the deadly drug.
26 Ekim 2023 - 23:30