Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Judge Orders Defendant to Write Book

Last week, Judge Ricardo Urbina, United States District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, sentenced a former senior pharmaceutical executive at Bristol-Myers to an unusual sentence. Dr. Andrew G. Bodnar had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the federal government about the company's efforts to resolve a patent dispute over the blood thinner Plavix. At sentencing, Judge Urbina sentenced Mr. Bodnar to two years probation, during which he must write a book about his experience connected with the case. He must also pay a $5,000 fine.

Here is further information on the case from the NYT.

Elkan Abramowitz, Dr. Bodnar’s lawyer, said he had never before heard of a case in which a judge sentenced a defendant to write a book.

But this is not the first time Judge Urbina has demanded written penance. In 1998, he sentenced a prominent Washington lobbyist to write and distribute a monograph to 2,000 lobbyists at the defendant’s own expense.

The lobbyist, James H. Lake, pleaded guilty to making illegal corporate campaign contributions. Judge Urbina ordered him to pay a $150,000 fine and to write a monograph describing the criminal provisions of federal laws governing corporate campaign contributions.

In the sentencing hearing on Monday, Judge Urbina said he would like to see Dr. Bodnar write a book about the Plavix case as a cautionary tale to other executives. The case concerned accusations that Bristol-Myers had made false statements to federal investigators about the company’s attempt to resolve a patent dispute with a Canadian maker of generic drugs, Apotex.

The Justice Department contended that the company in 2006 made a secret deal, in which Apotex would hold off making a generic version of Plavix. In exchange, the Justice Department said, Bristol-Myers indicated that it would subsequently give Apotex an exclusivity period in which it could produce its Plavix generic without Bristol’s making a generic of its own.

The government said that Bristol-Myers’s actions were anticompetitive and had the potential to restrict public access to lower-priced drugs. Plavix had sales of about $4.9 billion in the United States in 2008, according to IMS Health, a health care information company.

The initial accusations of anticompetitive behavior ended with only minor charges.
In 2007, in an agreement worked out with the antitrust division of the Justice Department, Bristol-Myers agreed to plead guilty to two violations of the Federal False Statements Accountability Act and to pay $1 million, the maximum fine.
In a separate suit, the Justice Department charged that Dr. Bodnar, who had negotiated with Apotex, misled the government over the Plavix agreement.

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