RJL Sciences and its president, Rudolph J. Liedtke, pleaded guilty in U.S. district court in Boston this week of conspiring to sell medical devices in order to boost AIDS wasting diagnoses and ultimately increase sales of the AIDS wasting drug Serostim, made by Serono, The Wall Street Journal reports. RJL makes a device that gauges body fat levels, but the product has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for evaluating fat loss and possible wasting in HIV-positive people. According to the charges filed against the company, RJL wrote new software for the devices that claimed it could diagnose AIDS wasting. The purpose of the new software was to increase the number of AIDS wasting diagnoses by physicians and boost sales of the anti-wasting drug Serostim.
RJL could be fined up to $500,000, and Liedtke could receive up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but the U.S. attorney is expected to ask for a lighter sentence because Liedtke and the company cooperated with law enforcement officials in the case.
The guilty plea in the RJL cases comes a week after the indictment of four former executives at Serono on charges that they offered free trips to doctors who would write more prescriptions for Serostim. A former regional sales manager for the company in December pleaded guilty in federal court to bribing doctors to write prescriptions for the expensive wasting medication. Former Serono officials have said the sales representatives had been pushed by top Serono staff members to encourage doctors to increase Serostim prescriptions to meet a six-day, $6 million sales goal.