March 23 (Bloomberg) -- An ex-GlaxoSmithKline Plc lawyer won dismissal of a false-statements case as a judge ruled prosecutors misinformed the grand jury that indicted her.
The lawyer, Lauren Stevens, asked U.S. District Judge Roger Titus to dismiss the case at a hearing last week in Greenbelt, Maryland. He ruled in her favor today.
Stevens argued that prosecutors improperly told grand jurors that a defense based on her claim that she relied on advice of counsel “was not relevant” to whether to indict.
Stevens was charged with obstructing an investigation into whether Glaxo marketed the antidepressant Wellbutrin for unapproved uses. She based her defense on the claim that, in responding to a Food and Drug Administration inquiry, she took the advice of the law firm King & Spalding, her attorney Reid Weingarten said at the hearing.
The government said she withheld slide sets used by speakers at Wellbutrin promotion events and information on compensation for event attendees, according to Titus’s decision. The judge said her reliance on lawyers’ advice might negate the accusation that she intended to break the law.
Prosecutors said in court that if Titus threw out the indictment, they would seek another one. Stevens was scheduled to go to trial on April 5.
“The department will not have any comment,” said Patrick Jasperse, the Justice Department attorney prosecuting the case. Titus dismissed the indictment without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can seek a new indictment.
No Deliberate Misleading
“This is not a case in which the government attempted to affirmatively mislead the grand jury to obtain an indictment -- rather it is a case in which prosecutors simply misinstructed the grand jury on the law,” Titus said.
Stevens was charged with one count of obstructing an official proceeding, one count of falsifying and concealing documents and four counts of making false statements.
The first two charges carry maximum prison terms of 20 years, and the others carry terms of five years.
Prosecutors contend that Stevens, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, “engaged in a yearlong effort” to deceive the FDA about the company’s off-label marketing campaign for Wellbutrin.
Under U.S. law, drug companies aren’t allowed to promote a drug for a use not approved by the FDA.
In response to regulators’ request for information about Wellbutrin’s marketing in October 2002, Stevens allegedly sent a series of letters “that falsely denied the company had promoted the drug for off-label uses, even though she knew” the drugmaker had sponsored such marketing programs, prosecutors said in court filings.
The case is U.S. v. Stevens, 10-cr-694, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).
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