Letter to the editor

I will never forget hearing the words “Profit is not a dirty word” early in my pharmacy education at the University at Buffalo. Now, many years later, it appears quite the opposite. This year has seen two high-profile cases of negative publicity for a school that purported to value ethics and professionalism, the Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) settlement for violating federal opioid laws and the criminal charges against benefactor John Kapoor. The school seems to be silent about its relationship with RNC and is moving too slowly on Kapoor to instill confidence. 

Real change requires those of us who came before to speak directly to the next generation.

The University at Buffalo named Kapoor Hall in 2012 and the fentanyl product that led to the conviction of Kapoor and other executives at Insys Therapeutics had an FDA approval date of early 2012. Given that knowledge, the naming of the building appears to have been done in good faith and with no belief Kapoor would become one of the architects of the worst public health crisis our nation has faced. Yet, Kapoor was arrested and charged in October of 2017. 

Here we are, a year and a half later, and the University is simply “reviewing and discussing the impact under UB and SUNY policies pertaining to university namings.” The school has had over a year to review and discuss this potential outcome. It is embarrassing to me as an alum that the school issued such a noncommittal response. If Kapoor’s name remains above the building on South Campus after this review process is completed, it will not only tarnish the proud reputation of the UB School of Pharmacy, but it will reflect poorly on the University at Buffalo as a whole.

The investigation into RDC covered several years, from 2012 to 2016. The company has been a significant sponsor of annual school events for many years, and it established the Karl D. Fiebelkorn Award in 2014. How will the school approach their relationship with RNC moving forward? Will it continue unchanged or will it reevaluate its priorities? These are the questions that arise as a consequence of entangling our professional education with profit-driven entities that lose sight of their mission statements and instead chase profit over patients.

Healthcare students and professionals, whether medicine, nursing, pharmacy or any other, need to maintain integrity in our moral compasses. We treat patients. We treat the victims of the opioid epidemic that RNC and Kapoor profited off of, and we are the ones left defending patients against unethical prescribing practices and predatory pricing schemes. We must never waiver in our commitment to do right by our patients and our professions, and in this instance, doing right by our profession starts with one thing:

Kapoor’s name must come down.

Christopher Tanski PharmD, BCCP, BCPS

UB School of Pharmacy Class of 2014