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Ex-Glaxo Executive Is Charged in Drug Fraud

By DUFF WILSON
Published: Nov 9, 2010

“This is absolutely precedent-setting — this is really going to set people’s hair on fire,” said Douglas B. Farquhar, a Washington lawyer who recently presided at a panel on law enforcement during a drug industry conference where federal officials warned they were focusing on individuals. “This is indicative of the F.D.A. and Justice strategy to go after the very top-ranking managing officials at regulated companies.”

The indictment accuses the Glaxo official, Lauren C. Stevens of Durham, N.C., of lying to the Food and Drug Administration in 2003, by writing letters, as associate general counsel, denying that doctors speaking at company events had promoted Wellbutrin for uses not approved by the agency. Ms. Stevens “made false statements and withheld documents she recognized as incriminating,” including slides the F.D.A. had sought during its investigation, the indictment stated.

Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division, said in a statement, “Where the facts and law allow, the Justice Department will pursue individuals responsible for illegal conduct just as vigorously as we pursue corporations.”

Ms. Stevens has assembled a high-powered legal defense team. “She’s pleading not guilty,” said Reid H. Weingarten, one of her lawyers, who previously represented Bernard J. Ebbers, former chief executive of WorldCom, and Mark A. Belnick, former Tyco counsel. “We’re going to trial and looking forward to it, and we fully expect her to be vindicated.”

Brien T. O’Connor, a lawyer with Ropes & Gray, said in a statement, “Lauren Stevens is an utterly decent and honorable woman. She is not guilty of obstruction or of making false statements. Everything she did in this case was consistent with ethical lawyering and the advice provided her by a nationally prominent law firm retained by her employer specifically because of its experience in working with F.D.A.”

Ms. Stevens, who is 60, could not be contacted Tuesday. No one answered her home telephone.

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