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Dec-20-2009 21:08printcomments

Howard Udell and Purdue Pharma's Corporate Responsibility

Maybe Udell should pick up one of his Mont Blanc fountain pens and begin a rough draft of a resume since he won't be of much value to Purdue Pharma as general counsel -- with an embarrassing debarment hanging over him.

Judge's gavel

(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) - The right to do business with the federal government was taken away from several Purdue Pharma corporate officers and one of their lawyers, for their responsibility in failing to prevent the Misbranding and Fraudulent Distribution of OxyContin.

Michael Friedman and Paul Goldenheim, MD are responsible corporate officers, and their general counsel is Howard Udell.

Marianne Skolek

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services, announced Administrative Law Judge Carolyn Cozad Hughes' affirmation of the OIG's 15-year exclusion from all Federal health care programs against the Purdue officials in January 2009.

In recent days the "Corporate Counsel" posted an article on the Internet entitled "Former Purdue Lawyer Presses Debarment Appeal."

For those who don't know the difference between "debarred" and "disbarment" -- debarred is the exclusion from enjoying certain possessions or rights or practices -- disbarment is the act of expelling a lawyer from the practice of law. The article stated that general counsel at major corporations are closely watching a case filed in Federal District Court in New Haven, Connecticut. The case – records of which were just unsealed on December 7, 2009 involves an appeal by Howard Udell, the first general counsel known to have been debarred from working at companies that do business with federal agencies. Quite an honor for Udell to be the "first" at this kind of debarment -- it will definitely affect his worth at Purdue Pharma both financially and as general counsel. My hope is that someone, in a Federal agency capacity, monitors Udell closely because I can't imagine he won't have "input" in doing business with Federal agencies.

Udell’s appeal, expected to be argued next spring or summer, originates from a May 2007 settlement between the U.S. attorney for western Virginia and Udell, Friedman and Goldenheim over the misbranding of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. The government claimed that patients and doctors were misled or "lied to" about the drug’s dangers and addictiveness.

All three executives pleaded guilty and, in exchange for no jail time, agreed to pay hefty fines -- Udell’s was $8 million. At the time, U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said only, “It was important to have individuals charged as well as the company.”

Federal law does not require it, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General decided to debar Udell, Friedman and Goldenheim through an administrative order thereby ending their careers in the very lucrative health care industry. In the meantime, I have been trying to have Udell's attorney rating on Avvo, the organization people reference when determining if they want to engage an attorney, to list the disciplinary action taken against Udell in Federal Court in 2007. I thought since he pleaded guilty to charges, was fined, was put on probation and given community service hours that would be considered disciplinary action against him and would be indicated on their site. I was wrong. I received an email from a customer service representative saying she checked the state bars in Connecticut and New York and there was no disciplinary action against Udell. It appears that Avvo as well as the state bars don't feel Federal charges against an attorney warrants any disciplinary action. I'll be working on having that changed -- not only with Avvo, but the state bars as well -- and hopefully I will be successful. In the near future, I no longer want to read on Avvo's website "We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer" under Udell's name.

Udell’s attorney, Andrew Ceresney of Debevoise & Plimpton released the following statement this past week -- “The decision to exclude Mr. Udell and two others based on strict liability, no intent misdemeanors, resulting solely from their status as officers of Purdue at a time when others engaged in conduct of which they were unaware, was arbitrary, unfair, and exceeded the inspector general’s statutory powers.” I'm not an attorney, Mr. Ceresney but if your client was "unaware" of the conduct to which others were engaged -- and took the fall for the criminal actions of others -- I have a suggestion for you. I am sure a $10 billion pharmaceutical company, whose reputation continues to be mudded, must have conducted a thorough internal investigation to determine what employees actually did engage in criminal conduct. Produce those findings. Maybe Udell should pick up one of his Mont Blanc fountain pens and begin a rough draft of a resume since he won't be of much value to Purdue Pharma as general counsel -- with an embarrassing debarment hanging over him. But then producing the findings of Purdue Pharma's internal investigation could end any debarment charges I would think.

=========================================== Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's who pled guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 7-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.

Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.

You can send Marianne an email at:

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Hank Ruark December 21, 2009 9:57 am (Pacific time)

Friend Dan: Odd that you should so comment, since my recollection is that Shakespeare's quote, at least in some versions of publication, includes clear reference to politicians too. Can't cite since continuing chaos here after move hides volume, but feel sure some versions do include wording undoubtedly illuminating whatever term meant politician in those days... Somewhere S. also writes of "impotent pigs", which may becloud my recall....

Daniel Johnson December 20, 2009 11:08 pm (Pacific time)

Shakespeare: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

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