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HHS Asks D.C. Court to Uphold Ban Against Former Drug Execs Who Misbranded OxyContin

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has requested the District of Columbia federal district court to uphold a ban against former senior drug company executives who plead guilty to misbranding OxyContin. HHS sought to continue the exclusion of the executives from federal health programs because of the misdemeanor offenses the executives plead guilty to committing, with regard to the popular painkiller. Namely, the former pharmaceutical executives admitted that their company knowingly and illegally promoted and marketed OxyContin. Apparently, the former pharmaceutical executives did not put a stop to their company's misbranding efforts for the big-selling painkiller.

Sanction Against Former Pharmaceutical Executives Upheld as Reasonable by D.C. Court

The federal court ruled that the exclusionary period recommended at the conclusion of the HHS' internal investigation was a reasonable sanction for the executives' misconduct. The exclusionary period involved in the OxyContin misbranding case was for a 12-year term. The three implicated executives from the pharmaceutical company, Purdue Frederick Company, are its former president, Michael Friedman; former chief legal officer, Howard Udell; and former chief medical officer, Paul D. Goldenheim. Given the nature of the sanction and the length of the exclusionary period, the three executives are appealing the decision handed down in December 2010 by a federal district judge that upholds the ban originally recommended by the secretary of HHS.

HHS Secretary's Recommendation for Federal Health Care Program Ban Sanction

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia's decision, as penned by The Honorable Ellen Segal Huvelle, is considered a big win for the federal government in the crackdown against misconduct in the pharmaceutical industry. In the case styled as Friedman v. Sebelius, defendant, Sebelius refers to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the HHS. Sebelius made the initial recommendation and decision to exclude the executives from participation in federal health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, for a term of 12 years because of their actions in misbranding OxyContin.

U.S. District Court Judge Not Persuaded by Pharmaceutical Executives' Legal Arguments

Judge Huvelle disregarded the legal arguments posed by the former pharmaceutical executives that the HHS secretary's recommended federal health care program ban was a misapplication of the relevant statute. Likewise, Judge Huvelle was not swayed by the corollary argument made by the men that, pursuant to the responsible corporate officer doctrine, harsh sanctions and penalties are reserved for parties actually guilty of committing the misconduct, rather than for corporate management who are responsible by virtue of their leadership positions alone. Judge Huvelle was equally not persuaded by the plaintiffs' attempts to protest the alleged lengthy time frame of their exclusionary period.