Bernie urges DOJ to bring more charges against price-fixing drug company execs

“Americans suffering from chronic health problems and pain conditions should not have to be concerned about collusion by pharmaceutical executives that could increase the price of their essential medications.”

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In response to the Justice Department filing criminal charges against a former top executive at a pharmaceutical company for participating in a price-rigging scheme, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) recently issued a statement urging the Department of Justice to continue prosecuting drug executives involved in price-rigging conspiracies.

On February 4, Ara Aprahamian, the former Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Taro Pharmaceuticals, was indicted on two counts of participating in two conspiracies to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers for generic drugs. According to the indictment, the defendant and his co-conspirators agreed to increase prices and allocate customers for numerous drugs, including, but not limited to, medications used to treat and manage arthritis, seizures, pain, various skin conditions, and blood clots.

Aprahamian was also charged with making a false statement to an FBI agent when federal investigators executed a search warrant at his employer’s headquarters in September 2016. He falsely stated to the FBI that he never had a conversation with a competitor about the pricing of a product before that product was launched, according to the indictment.

On Friday, Sanders and Maloney issued the following press release: “We are encouraged that the Justice Department is continuing to pursue criminal charges against corporate executives responsible for this vast price-fixing conspiracy. If these charges are true, executives artificially inflated prices for drugs that the American people rely on every single day. We urge the Department to pursue additional criminal charges until all of the executives who engaged in these crimes are brought to justice. We also urge DOJ to investigate generic drug companies’ obstruction of our Congressional investigation into their price-fixing schemes.”

Shortly after Aprahamian was indicted, Special Agent in Charge Scott Pierce, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, announced, “The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring that any activity related to price-fixing, bid-rigging and/or market allocation in the generic drugs industry is identified and aggressively investigated. The U.S. Postal Service spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on health care costs, including expenses related to prescription drugs. This indictment is a testament to the dedication and determination of the legal and investigative teams and sends a clear message to anyone who would participate in this sort of activity.”

“Americans suffering from chronic health problems and pain conditions should not have to be concerned about collusion by pharmaceutical executives that could increase the price of their essential medications,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “The FBI is dedicated to investigating and bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice, on behalf of the American public.”

“This is the third pharmaceutical price fixing case announced in our District in just the last year, following cases against Rising Pharmaceuticals in December 2019, and Heritage Pharmaceuticals in May 2019,” stated U.S. Attorney William McSwain for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Along with our partners at the Antitrust Division, we remain heavily focused on illegal price fixing and market allocation in generic drugs and on addressing the impact those practices have on federal healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid. These criminal charges against a former top corporate executive are yet another important step in that fight.”

Aprahamian is the third executive charged for his participation in conspiracies to fix prices, rig bids, and allocate customers for generic drugs. The two individuals previously charged entered guilty pleas in January 2017. To date, two companies have also been charged. Both corporate charges were resolved by deferred prosecution agreement.

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