Serono Sales Rep Pleads Guilty in Federal Court To Bribing Physicians To Prescribe AIDS Wasting Drug Serostim
A former New York regional sales manager for Swiss biotechnology company Serono on Tuesday pleaded guilty to bribing doctors in New York City to write prescriptions for the company's AIDS-related drug Serostim, the Boston Globe reports (Boston Globe, 12/22). Serostim, which is a growth hormone, is prescribed to HIV-positive patients to treat AIDS-related wasting. Many AIDS patients receive the drug through state-federal Medicaid programs, which include the medication in their drug formularies. The charges brought against Adam Stupak came after he agreed to cooperate with the U.S. attorney's office in an ongoing grand jury investigation into the company's practices. In 2001, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston subpoenaed Serono, requesting nearly 10 years' worth of documents pertaining to Serostim, and the company in 2002 received similar requests from authorities in California, Florida, Maryland and New York. The criminal and civil investigations are focused on whether the company violated federal and state false claims acts or antikickback laws, which prohibit drug companies from offering incentives to doctors to prescribe a drug covered by the government (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/16). Stupak pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan's office, the AP/TheBostonChannel.com reports (AP/TheBostonChannel.com, 12/22). Stupak could face up to five years in jail in addition to fines, the Boston Herald reports. His sentencing is scheduled for March 15 (Arends, Boston Herald, 12/23). Neither Stupak nor his attorney, Evan Slavitt, immediately returned requests for comment, according to the AP/TheBostonChannel.com (AP/TheBostonChannel.com, 12/22). The U.S. attorney's office said the investigation of Serono is continuing, the Wall Street Journal reports. A Serono spokesperson declined to comment, citing company policy, according to the Journal. Stupak also is filing a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston saying that Serono did not pay legal fees connected to the investigation as agreed (Windham, Wall Street Journal, 12/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.