May 25 An Alabama doctor was sentenced on
Thursday to 20 years in prison after being convicted with a
colleague of prescribing painkillers through two clinics for no
legitimate purpose, in a case tied to the U.S. probe of Insys
John Couch, who with Xiulu Ruan ran the Physicians Pain
Specialists of Alabama clinics, was sentenced by U.S. District
Judge Callie Granade in Mobile, Alabama, after a jury in March
found them guilty of racketeering conspiracy and other felonies.
Ruan is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. Brandon Essig,
a lawyer for Couch, confirmed Thursday's sentence and said he
planned to appeal.
"We don't think there was sufficient evidence in the case,"
According to court papers, Physician's Pain Specialists of
Alabama had two clinic locations in Mobile.
Prosecutors said through those clinics, Couch and Ruan,
motivated by their own financial self-interest, regularly wrote
prescriptions for large quantities of addictive medications
including fentanyl without a legitimate medical purpose.
The case, filed in 2015, focused partly on two brand name
instant-release fentanyl drugs, Subsys, manufactured by Insys,
and Abstral, which was then manufactured by Galena Biopharma
According to prosecutors, while both drugs were approved by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cancer pain, Ruan and
Couch prescribed Subsys and Abstral for off-label uses to treat
neck, back and joint pain.
Prosecutors said the doctors received illegal kickbacks from
Insys in exchange for prescribing Subsys and became among the
top U.S. prescribers of the drug.
Couch and Ruan also bought $1.6 million of Galena shares and
tried to manipulate its stock price by driving up sales of
Abstral, prosecutors said.
In December, federal prosecutors in Boston announced charges
against several former Insys executives and managers, including
former CEO Michael Babich, in connection with a scheme to bribe
doctors to prescribe Subsys. They have pleaded not guilty.
Federal charges have also been filed in four states against
at least five other ex-Insys employees. Insys earlier this month
said that it was working to settle the U.S. Justice Department
Galena, which divested of Abstral in 2015, earlier this
month said it had tentatively agreed to pay $7.5 million to
resolve a U.S. investigation into its marketing and promotional
practices for Abstral.
The case is U.S. v. Couch, et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of Alabama, No. 15-cr-88.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Cynthia