By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge has rejected a former Insys Therapeutics Inc employee's arguments that he had a constitutional right to use marijuana while under indictment for what federal prosecutors call a scheme to pay kickbacks to doctors to prescribe an opioid drug.

Jeffrey Pearlman, a former Insys district sales manager, had sought to modify his bail conditions so that he could continue using marijuana prescribed by a New Jersey doctor to help kick an opioid addiction he developed after a spine injury.

Pearlman is one of several former employees and executives of Arizona-based Insys to face U.S. charges related to Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray intended for cancer patients containing fentanyl, an addictive and regulated synthetic opioid.


His lawyers argued that requiring Pearlman to give up medical marijuana would force him to return to using opioids, impairing his constitutional rights to fully participate in his defense and to due process.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Merriam in New Haven, Connecticut said on Friday that argument rested on the "faulty assumption" that Pearlman would have to go back to using opioids when in fact other treatment options exist.

"Other reasonable treatments exist; indeed, in states with no medical marijuana law or more restrictive laws, patients with defendant's condition must use other forms of treatment," she wrote.

Defendants who are out on bail are also required to not violate federal law, and that possession of marijuana, even if legal under state law, remains illegal under federal law, Merriam said.

A lawyer for Pearlman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Federal prosecutors in Boston in December charged six ex-Insys executives and managers, including former Chief Executive Michael Babich, who prosecutors say participated in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe Subsys. They have pleaded not guilty.

Insys has said it is working toward a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

Prosecutors said Pearlman and sales representatives he managed induced doctors, advanced practice registered nurses and physicians' assistants to prescribe Insys' fentanyl spray by paying them to participate in sham "speaker programs."

Speaker fees ranged from $1,000 to several thousands of dollars, prosecutors said. One Connecticut healthcare provider who participated in these programs earned $83,500 in kickbacks to prescribe Insys' fentanyl spray, prosecutors said.

Pearlman has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to violate anti-kickback laws. He is scheduled to face trial in November.

The case is U.S. v. Pearlman, U.S. District, District of Connecticut, No. 17-cr-00027.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang)

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