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Big UB donor charged in alleged bribery scheme

The billionaire founder and owner of a pharmaceutical company who also is one of the University at Buffalo's largest philanthropic donors has been arrested and charged in an alleged scheme to bribe doctors to overprescribe a highly addictive narcotic spray drug developed by the company.

John Kapoor was arrested Thursday in Arizona, where his company, Insys, is headquartered. The home of UB's School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is named John and Editha Kapoor Hall in honor of Kapoor and his late wife, who have given at least $10.8 million to the university. Editha Kapoor was from Grand Island.

Kapoor, 74, earned his doctorate in medicinal chemistry from UB in 1972. In 2002, he founded Insys Therapeutics Inc. The company a decade later launched Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray that contains fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, and was designed to treat pain in cancer patients.

An indictment was unsealed in federal court in Boston, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office District of Massachusetts. The indictment charged Kapoor and other executives in Insys with conspiring to bribe pain management doctors in various states to prescribe Subsys and to increase the dosage and volume of prescriptions.

"In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has reached crisis proportions, Mr. Kapoor and his company stand accused of bribing doctors to overprescribe a potent opioid and committing fraud on insurance companies solely for profit," said Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.

Kapoor and other Insys executives also tried to mislead and defraud insurers who were reluctant to approve payment for Subsys when it was prescribed to patients who did not have cancer, the indictment said.

At UB, Kapoor's 2008 gift of $5 million helped support construction of a new building for the pharmacy school on the university's South Campus. The new building opened in 2012.

A university spokesman released a written statement Thursday saying that university officials were aware of Kapoor's arrest through media reports. "It would be premature to comment further or take any action until the university has more information," the statement said.

UB's Alumni Association honored Kapoor in 2011 with its Samuel P. Capen Award, which recognizes "notable meritorious contributions from alumni to the university and its family, including those that influence the growth and improvement of UB and inspire others to give their active interest and material support to the university." The State University of New York awarded him an honorary doctor of science degree in 2000.

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