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Judge Questions Plea Deal for Oxycontin Execs

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An arrangement that allows Purdue Pharma executives to avoid jail in exchange for guilty pleas for illegally marketing Oxycontin is being questioned by a federal judge, the Roanoke Times reported June 20.

U.S. District Judge James Jones asked prosecutors why the three executives should not get jail time in addition to the $34.5 million in fines they would pay under the agreement. Prosecutors replied, “While it certainly is appropriate for the corporate officials to be held accountable for the actions of the company, a sentence of incarceration …  would be unusual.”

The officials — company president Michael Friedman, chief legal officer Howard Udell and former head of medical affairs Paul Goldenheim — pled guilty to misdemeanor charges last month. Under the plea deal, Purdue Pharma will pay an additional $600 million in fines.

Jones presented prosecutors with a list of 16 questions about the sentences, which observers said was unusual. For example, Jones also asked why Purdue was not being required to pay the medical and rehabilitation costs of OxyContin victims.

Prosecutors said the criminal convictions and fines would provide a strong warning to other pharmaceutical companies about misbranding their products.

Jones could reject the plea deal and allow the company officials to withdraw their guilty pleas. Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.

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