What happens to you when you lie to federal regulators about a secret deal you struck to prevent competition on medication used by tens of millions of people? Evidently, you get sent to the blackboard. Former Bristol-Myers Squibb executive Andrew Bodnar didn't get any jail time, but was ordered by a federal judge to write a book.
The good new for Dr. Bodnar is that he won't have to write "I will not violate antitrust laws and then lie to the Federal Trade Commission about it" 1000 times. Instead, as reported by Bloomberg, in addition to two years probation and a $5,000 fine, D.C. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina commissioned a Bodnar penned opus on the topic of how to not end up like Andrew Bodnar. "Perhaps it will be inspirational," said the judge.
Price fixing or monopolization might be topics more up Dr. Bodnar's alley. His charges result from a deal cut between Bristol-Myers and a company called Apotex over the blood-thinning drug Plavix. Bristol-Myers makes Plavix, which 48 million Americans reportedly take everyday.
Traditionally, a drug maker with a valid patent has the exclusive right to make that drug until the patent expires. Toward the end of a patent's life, drug makers often contend with generic drug makers eager to offer the drug at much lower prices. Unless...
This is where Bodnar and Bristol-Myers' made some less than legal missteps. As detailed on BNet Pharma, with generic maker Apotex poised to offer a generic Plavix, the two companies struck a deal in which Apotex agreed to hold off on launching its generic in exchange for Bristol-Myers not selling a competing generic of its own down the road. Basically Bristol-Myers would get 6 more months to sell Plavix at pumped-up brand name prices (without generic competition) and Apotex could later sell generics without competition from Bristol-Myers.
Sound fishy? The FTC thought so and rejected the deal out of antitrust concerns. So the two companies cut that part out of the written portion of their agreement, but Dr. Bodnar made an oral agreement with Apotex along the same lines. Still sound fishy? That's probably why Bristol-Myers didn't disclose the unwritten part of the deal to the FTC. When stories being told to the FTC didn't match up, Bodnar signed a statement indicating that no such side deal existed.
While it might seem a wacky punishment, maybe having to write a book fits Bodnar's crime. Apparently, he believes strongly in the power of the written word. So strongly, in fact, that if something is not written (say an anticompetitive oral agreement to squeeze max prices out of millions of Plavix patients for as long as absolutely possible), to him it doesn't really exist and you can say whatever bs you want about it.
Would that it were so. It always bears repeating, but oral contracts are still real contracts.
It remains to be seen whether Bodnar putting pen to paper will prevent wayward executives from following his example. Some real time in the clink might have sent a stronger message.