Corporate officials are 'responsible'

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In an adverse finding on an appeal by Purdue Pharma executives over OxyContin marketing, an HHS Departmental Appeals Board says that corporate officials can be held responsible for their organization's legal problems, even if they weren't personally aware they were occurring.

The senior executives had pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of introducing misbranded OxyContin into interstate commerce.

Washington food and drug attorney Arnold Friede commented in an online posting that there was no evidence that the executives personally participated in or had knowledge of the specifics of the underlying misbranding. They were convicted and sentenced to three years probation, 400 hours of community service and a fine of $5,000. They were ordered to disgorge bonuses they had received. Separately, the HHS Inspector General suspended the three from participating in federal health programs for 20 years.

They challenged the legality of the exclusions and their duration before an HHS administrative law judge, who upheld the order but cut the time to 15 years. They appealed that decision to the Departmental Appeals Board, arguing that the criminal convictions were based solely and exclusively on their positions on the Purdue organization chart and there was no evidence that they participated in, knew about or were in any other way at fault for the misbranding.

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