Bristol-Myers Sacks CEO Dolan Amid Plavix Row

Bristol-Myers Squibb on Sept. 12 sacked chief executive Peter Dolan after a court-appointed monitor said the drug maker may have breached a deal with U.S. prosecutors to drop accounting fraud charges.

The board of directors appointed James Cornelius, a director of the company since January 2005 and chairman emeritus of medical device maker Guidant Corp., as interim CEO.

The board also announced that Richard Willard will leave the position of senior vice president and general counsel, effective immediately, to be replaced on an interim basis by Sandra Leung. Leung will be advised by former FBI chief Louis Freeh.

The company said that it acted following a report by former federal judge Frederick Lacey, the monitor under the company's deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors, who recommended that Dolan and Willard be terminated.The 2005 deal avoided prosecution on "channel stuffing," in which the company offered incentives to wholesalers to hold greater quantities of prescription drugs to lift company earnings.

The company said it was reviewing the actions of top company executives in their efforts to block a generic version of Plavix, a top-selling medication that can be used to protect patients from having another heart attack. Plavix is marketed jointly by Bristol-Myers and Sanofi-Aventis of France.

Despite the ousting of the CEO, Bristol Myers said the monitor's report had "no finding of any unlawful conduct by the company or any of its employees."

The company, which recently obtained a preliminary injunction against generic drug maker Apotex to halt its sales of the Plavix rival, said it was reviewing reports from its lawyers on the handling of this litigation. But it stressed: "The monitor and the U.S. Attorney did not find that there had been any violation of the deferred prosecution agreement."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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