‘Pill factory’ doctors’ convictions partially overturned after US Supreme Court ruling

The Atlanta-based United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned the convictions of Xiulu Ruan and John Couch for unlawfully dispensing controlled substances after finding that under a Supreme Court order in June in Ruan’s case, the jurors were given the wrong instructions on how to determine their guilt.

But the three-judge panel refused to interfere with their other convictions for conspiring to violate the Controlled Substances Act, racketeering and accepting bribes from bankrupt opioid drugmaker Insys Therapeutics. Inc.

Prosecutors must now decide whether to retry Ruan and Couch or go straight to re-sentencing the remaining convictions. Ruan was serving a 21-year prison sentence and Couch was sentenced to 20 years.

Domingo Soto, Couch’s lawyer, said he was considering his options, including pursuing a new appeal. Lawrence Robbins, Ruan’s attorney, declined to comment. Prosecutors did not respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors said Ruan and Couch abused their medical licenses to illegally prescribe strong, addictive opioid painkillers without medical necessity through a Mobile, Alabama clinic that issued nearly 300,000 prescriptions for controlled substances in 2011. 2015.

Prosecutors said they also took bribes from Insys to prescribe its Subsys fentanyl spray. Insys founder John Kapoor and other executives were later found guilty of conspiring to bribe them and other doctors to prescribe Subsys.

After the 11th Circuit largely upheld their convictions in 2017, Ruan appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing his trial was unfair because jurors were not required to consider whether he had a “good faith” reason. to believe that his many opioid prescriptions were medically valid.

In June, the Supreme Court sided with Ruan, ruling that once defendants produce evidence that they were licensed to dispense controlled substances like opioids, prosecutors must prove that they knew they were acting in an unauthorized manner.

The judges, however, left it to the 11th Circuit to decide whether errors in the jury instructions warranted overturning his conviction.

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