A former regional sales manager for biotechnology company Serono last week pleaded guilty in federal court to bribing doctors in New York City to prescribe Serostim, a human growth hormone used to treat AIDS-related wasting, The Boston Globe reports. Adam Stupak was charged with three counts of bribery for offering incentives to physicians, including free trips to an HIV conference in Cannes, France, if they would increase the number of prescriptions written for Serostim. Stupak's sentencing is scheduled for March 15. He faces up to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
The charges against Stupak came after he agreed to cooperate with the U.S. attorney's office in a grand jury investigation related to sales of Serostim into Serono's business practices. The company also is being investigated by legal authorities in California, Florida, Maryland, and New York for possible criminal and civil violations of false-claims acts and antikickback laws, which prohibit drug companies from offering incentives to doctors to prescribe a drug covered by government health programs. Serostim is covered by Medicaid as well as by several AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.
Stupak says he was one of six sales directors who met in Boston in March 1999 to discuss how to boost sales of Serostim. Company managers allegedly required the sales directors to identify the highest-prescribing physicians in each of their regions and offer financial incentives to boost prescriptions in order to meet a sales goal of $6 million in six days. Stupak's attorney says his client was ordered by the company management to offer the prescription incentives and was not acting on his own. A Serono spokesman said the company had no comment on the case.