UPDATE 1-McKesson pays $18 mln in temperature monitor false claims case

(Adds McKesson comment, paragraphs 5-6)

Aug 8 (Reuters) - McKesson Corp agreed to pay $18 million to settle U.S. charges that it violated its contract with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by falsely assuring that it had been shipping vaccines at the correct temperature.

Friday’s settlement announced by the U.S. Department of Justice resolved whistleblower claims against the San Francisco-based pharmaceutical distributor under the federal False Claims Act.

The Justice Department accused McKesson of having from April to November 2007 improperly set monitors designed to detect when air temperatures inside shipping boxes moved outside a range considered safe for the vaccines.

It said that by failing to properly set the monitors, McKesson knowingly submitted false claims to the CDC that it had complied with its contractual obligations to provide shipping and handling services.

In a statement, McKesson said it believes the monitors complied with the contract, and that there was no allegation that the vaccines were compromised.

McKesson also denied liability, but said it agreed to settle given the uncertainty of litigation, and in the interest of maintaining a strong relationship with the CDC.

The case was originally brought in July 2012 by Terrell Fox, a former finance director at McKesson Specialty Distribution LLC, and later joined by the federal government. Fox will receive a portion of the settlement. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)