The first of two criminal fraud trials against three healthcare executives kicked off this week, representing the government's first crack at demonstrating its new approach to individual accountability, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The government's case against W. Carl Reichel, former president of Warner Chilcott PLC, began Monday in Massachusetts district court. Reichel was arrested in October after Warner Chilcott, a subsidiary of Allergan, agreed to pay $125 million to settle civil and criminal fines for paying physicians to prescribe certain drugs. According to the indictment, Reichel is accused of providing sales representatives with "virtually unlimited expense accounts" to provide kickbacks to physicians in the form of free dinners and speaker payments. Prosecutors allege he required sales representatives to take physicians out at least twice a week and instructed them to discuss the provider's prescribing patterns.
The second trial, which is set to begin June 7, involves charges against the CEO and vice president of sales at Acclarent, a medical device manufacturer and distributor owned by Johnson & Johnson. Prosecutors say the two executives sold a sinus opening device without FDA approval.
Both cases reflect a relatively new approach by the government following the Yates memo released last September, which instructs prosecutors to target individuals involved in white-collar crime, including healthcare fraud. Legal experts have been split on whether the government will follow through on criminal prosecutions, although some have pointed to the case against Reichel as one indication that there is prosecutorial weight behind the retooled approach.
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