Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
March 30, 2009: Pharmaceutical Company Manager Pleads Guilty to Off-Label Marketing
BOSTON—A Branchburg, NJ, woman agreed to plead guilty to violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, for marketing the drug Bextra for uses and dosages that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan; Warren T. Bamford, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Susan J. Waddell, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Leigh- Alistair Barzey, Resident Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; Mark Dragonetti, Resident Agent in Charge of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; Jeffrey Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations - Northeast Field Office; and Joseph Finn, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, Boston Field Office, announced today that MARY HOLLOWAY, age 47, of Branchburg, New Jersey, has plead guilty to a one count Information charging her with distribution of a misbranded drug.
According to the Information from approximately November 2001, through April 2005, HOLLOWAY was employed as a Regional Manager at a pharmaceutical company and was responsible for sales in her region of the drug Bextra. Bextra was a Cox-II inhibitor and had been approved in by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November 2001 for the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, adult rheumatoid arthritis, at 10 mgs and primary dysmennorhea at 20 mgs, twice a day as needed. The Information charges that, in 2001, the FDA specifically denied the request of the pharmaceutical company to approve it for acute pain, including the pain of surgery. The FDA told the pharmaceutical company that it could not approve it for these other indications because the safety in these other uses had not been established. Specifically, the FDA was concerned about the results of a study in which there was an excess of cardiovascular events in patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery and used Bextra. Bextra was withdrawn from the market in April 2005.
HOLLOWAY was aware of the FDA’s safety concerns, but that she nonetheless had her sales staff of approximately 100 employees sell Bextra for precisely the uses that the FDA refused to approve. For example, HOLLOWAY trained and encouraged her sales teams to promote Bextra by obtaining protocols from doctors that instructed that Bextra be used for the pain of surgery, an unapproved use, and at 20 mgs, an unapproved dose. HOLLOWAY also instructed her staff to market Bextra for use before, during and after surgery to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis, which is a form of life threatening blood clots, even though she knew there were no studies showing that Bextra was safe and effective for this use. Finally, HOLLOWAY encouraged her staff to make false safety claims about Bextra in order to sell the drug.
HOLLOWAY faces up to six months’ imprisonment, to be followed by not more than three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $100,000 or twice the amount of gross loss or gross gain.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, Special Prosecutions Staff for the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Office of Inspector General for the United States Postal Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Susan M. Poswistilo of Sullivan’s Health Care Fraud Unit.