Ex-Sandoz executive pleads guilty in U.S. generic drug price-fixing scheme

(This Feb 14 story corrects headline, first and third paragraph to indicate that executive worked at Sandoz at time of allegations, not Alembic Pharmaceuticals.)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former executive of Novartis unit Sandoz pleaded guilty on Friday to participating in a scheme to fix prices for generic medicines.

The Justice Department said former executive Hector Armando Kellum had pleaded guilty to working to fix the prices of clobetasol, used to treat eczema and psoriasis, and nystatin triamcinolone cream, an anti-fungal drug that also has a corticosteroid.

A lawyer for Kellum declined comment.

The government said one of Kellum’s alleged co-conspirators was Ara Aprahamian, a former sales and marketing executive at Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, who was also indicted for price-fixing and bid-rigging.

U.S. drug pricing has become a political issue in recent years amid complaints that some drugs, including medicines on the market for decades, have seen sharp price increases.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tom Brown