Bristol to admit guilt in Plavix patent case

From Bloomberg News

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said Thursday that it would plead guilty to criminal charges to end a U.S. antitrust case arising from a bungled patent settlement over the drug maker's blood thinner Plavix.

The New York-based company said it would admit to two counts of providing false statements to a government agency. The maximum fine for the charges is $1 million.

Bristol-Myers said the false statements were made by "a former Bristol-Myers Squibb senior executive."

Company spokeswoman Laura Hortas said the executive was not former Chief Executive Peter Dolan, who was fired after the agreement between the company, partner Sanofi-Aventis and generic-drug maker Apotex Inc. fell apart.

The companies are awaiting a court ruling on the validity of a Sanofi patent that expires in 2011 and, if upheld, would bar Apotex from selling a generic version of Plavix.

The companies agreed last year to keep generic Plavix off the market until just months before the patent expired. The deal was rejected by state attorneys general, and Apotex briefly entered the market before it was halted by a federal judge.

According to court papers filed by Weston, Canada-based Apotex, the negotiations were conducted between Apotex CEO Barry Sherman and Andrew Bodner, then a senior executive vice president at Bristol-Myers.

Bristol-Myers and Sanofi had initially promised Apotex they wouldn't sell Plavix without a label as a so-called "authorized generic" to undercut Apotex sales. In May 2006, the Federal Trade Commission and states objected to terms of the agreement.

A second agreement was reached with "oral side agreements" that weren't part of the written pact, including the pledge on the authorized generic, the Apotex filing said. The FTC and New York attorney general are conducting their own investigation into the accord.

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