Advertisement
News by VICE

Pharma reps bragged about opioid sales in parody video of A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems”

"I got new patients, yeah, I got a lot of ‘em."

by Emma Ockerman
Feb 14 2019, 4:18pm

Pharmaceutical salesmen hawking an opioid drug once rapped about pushing doctors to prescribe higher doses — and how much money they were making off those sales — to the tune of A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems.”

“I love titrations, yeah, that’s not a problem, and I got new patients, yeah, I got a lot of ‘em,” one of the salesmen at Insys Therapeutics raps about the fentanyl spray Subsys in a 2015 internal company video. “Titrations” refers to a process in which a physician continually increases a drug’s dosage strength.

Prosecutors played the video Wednesday during the federal racketeering trial of the company’s founder, John Kapoor. He and four other Insys executives have been charged with formulating a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors into writing more prescriptions for Subsys, which can be 100 times more powerful than morphine. More than 900 people have died from using the drug since it was approved in 2012 to treat severe cancer-related pain.

“Shoutout to Kapoor for what you created,” one of the salesmen raps, referring to the company’s 75-year-old founder, who has pleaded not guilty.

The video, entitled “Great by Choice,” was first shown at the company’s 2015 national sales meeting to encourage sales representatives to prescribe higher doses of the spray, according to court documents. It shows the company’s vice president of marketing, Alec Burlakoff, dressed as a life-size bottle of the addictive drug while employees dance around him.

At one point, the song interludes into a dub of “Rap God” by Eminem, who has long been open about his struggles with addiction to prescription painkillers. Burlakoff raps to the song while wearing a Subsys costume clearly labeled with the drug’s maximum dosage, 1,600 micrograms.

Burlakoff pleaded guilty to racketeering in November. Insys’ former chief executive, Michael Babich, pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Cover image: Screenshot of Insys marketing video via U.S. Attorney's Office of Massachusetts