April 6, 2009 / 9:05 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 1-Ex Bristol-Myers exec pleads guilty in Plavix case

* Andrew Bodnar faces up to 1 year in prison

* Lied to FTC about Plavix deal with Apotex

NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) - Andrew Bodnar, a former top executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N), faces up to a year in jail after pleading guilty to lying to federal officials about a deal to block a generic version of the company’s top-selling medicine.

Bodnar, who was a senior vice president of strategy and a member of Bristol’s executive committee, was indicted a year ago for misleading statements to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission about his dealings in 2006 with Canadian generic drugmaker Apotex Inc.

Bristol-Myers in 2007 agreed to plead guilty and pay a $1 million fine for misleading the government about its efforts to stop Apotex from selling a cheap form of its multibillion-dollar blood clot preventer Plavix in the United States. Bristol-Myers co-markets Plavix with French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA).

In addition to jail time Bodnar, who acted as Bristol’s negotiator with Apotex, is facing a fine of up to $100,000 or twice any gains derived from his crime, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Bodnar attempted to cut a deal with Apotex under which Bristol said it would not launch its own competing generic form of Plavix if the Canadian company agreed to a settlement that would delay its launch of generic Plavix until 2011. The former executive, however, falsely told FTC officials that he had made no such assurances to Apotex.

The FTC had previously told Bristol it would not approve a Plavix litigation settlement if the New York-based drugmaker promised not to launch its own generic.

“The prosecutions of BMS and its former senior executive, Andrew Bodnar, should send a strong message to the pharmaceutical community that attempts to undermine the federal government’s critical role of ensuring Americans have access to life-saving drugs, like Plavix, at the most competitive prices will not be tolerated,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Scott Hammond said in a statement.

“Those who attempt to mislead the federal government or undermine the integrity of its functions should expect to face criminal prosecution,” Hammond added.

Bodnar, a lawyer and medical doctor who was considered a right-hand man of then-chief executive Peter Dolan, was ousted from the company’s executive committee but was kept on as a “special status employee” after Dolan was fired by the drugmaker in September 2006.

Dolan was replaced by board member James Cornelius just weeks after the company’s efforts to block the Apotex generic drew a government investigation.

Apotex sold its generic Plavix briefly in the United States before a federal judge ruled that Bristol’s patents were valid and infringed by Apotex. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson; Editing Bernard Orr)

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