Forest Hires Former Senator To Fight The Feds

Forest Hires Former Senator To Fight The Feds

July 25th, 2011 // 12:25 pm @

Faced with being banned from doing business with such federal healthcare programs as Medicare and Medicaid, Forest Laboratories ceo and president Howard Solomon recently retained former US Senator John Breaux as a lobbyist. The Louisiana pol is now a senior counsel with the Patton Boggs law firm, which has a large healthcare practice.

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His lobbying registration form was filed on June 14, two months after the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Health & Human Services notified the drugmaker that its 83-year-old executive was facing exclusion (read this). The Hill first reported Forest hired Breaux.

Last year, Forest pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and made a $313 million payment that included $164 million in criminal penalties, and signed a corporate integrity agreement. The drugs in question were Levothroid, an oral med for thyroid conditions, and two antidepressants – Celexa and Lexapro. Forest was charged with distributing Levothroid in the early 1990s without obtaining FDA approval (look here).

By going after Solomon, in particular, the OIG is hoping to send a signal to the pharmaceutical industry that execs are not off the hook if they had been in a position of responsibility when a crime occurred, even without an admission that they were involved. “We’re concerned about criminal conduct and that our remedy in civil cases is not sufficient to protect programs going forward and provide a deterrent,”
Gregory Demske, the OIG’s assistant inspector general for legal affairs, recently told us.

In April, Forest responded to the OIG move in a statement saying, “it would be completely unwarranted to exclude a senior executive against whom there has never been any allegation of wrongdoing whatsoever. We are hopeful that HHS-OIG [Office of Inspector General] will decide that the facts and circumstances as to Mr. Solomon do not warrant an exercise of its exclusion authority.” We asked Forest for comment and will update you accordingly.

Source: Pharmalot

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