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Serono Rep Gets Federal Criminal Charges
  "Bribes Alleged in Sales Policy for AIDS Drug"
USA Today (12.16.04)::Donna Leinwand
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in the US District Court in Boston against a New York sales representative of the biotechnology firm Serono for allegedly bribing doctors to write prescriptions for an expensive AIDS drug. According to the complaint, Adam Stupak offered three New York City physicians all-expenses paid trips to a medical conference in Cannes, France, if they wrote at least 10 prescriptions for Serostim, a human growth hormone used to counter AIDS-related weight loss. If convicted of the three counts of bribery, Stupak could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $225,000.
Evan Slavitt, Stupak's attorney, said his client was ordered by Serono — which is headquartered in Geneva and runs its US operations from Massachusetts — to make the offer to doctors in his sales territory. "Adam was not acting on his own," said Slavitt. Stupak has not worked for Serono for three years. Renee Connolly, Serono's US spokesperson, said company policy is not to comment on legal proceedings.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Serostim in 1996, around the same time several antivirals now known as the AIDS cocktail were also approved. The widely prescribed and effective cocktail led to a decline in the number of people with dramatic AIDS-related weight loss, and thus to a decline in demand for Serostim, according to the complaint.
By February 1999, Serostim was falling short of its sales forecast. On March 1, the complaint says, Serono executives announced to Stupak and five other regional sales directors its "$6m-6 Day" plan, in which the representatives would offer a free trip to France in exchange for writing at least 10 Serostim prescriptions. The goal was to produce a $6 million sales increase within a week. The complaint noted that 30 Serostim prescriptions are worth about $6.3 million. The investigation is ongoing.
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