Former Glaxo lawyer indicted again over drug probe

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:11pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former lawyer for GlaxoSmithKline has been reindicted for obstructing a probe into the company's marketing practices for a drug after the first indictment was dismissed because of errors by prosecutors, the Justice Department said on Thursday.

Lauren Stevens was charged again with four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of falsifying and concealing documents related to Glaxo's promotion of the anti-depressant drug for weight loss, which had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The original indictment filed in November was dismissed last month by a federal judge in Maryland who found that prosecutors made mistakes when presenting the case to the grand jury.

A grand juror had asked prosecutors whether it was relevant that Stevens relied on advice of other lawyers when she responded to the FDA's investigation, according to court papers. The advice Stevens received from other lawyers is central to her defense in the case.

The judge found the prosecutors had given an incorrect answer that "either substantially influenced the decision to indict or, at the very least, creates grave doubt as to that decision."

Stevens, who worked as associate general counsel at Glaxo but has since retired, was accused of concealing documents and making false statements to the FDA about the extent of which the company promoted the drug Wellbutrin for unapproved uses.

The Justice Department said the new indictment charges were largely the same as those filed in November, but officials could not immediately provide a copy.

The trial is tentatively scheduled to begin later this month.

A lawyer for Stevens, Reid Weingarten, was not immediately available for comment. Stevens pleaded not guilty to the original indictment in November.

The case is USA v. Stevens, No. 10-cr-00694 in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; additional reporting by Carlyn Kolker of Reuters Legal in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)

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