(Adds Reichel court appearance, comments, Allergan-Pfizer talks)
By Jonathan Stempel
Oct 29 (Reuters) - Warner Chilcott US Sales LLC, now part of Botox maker Allergan Plc, agreed to plead guilty to felony health care fraud and pay $125 million to resolve U.S. charges that it paid kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe several of its drugs.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which announced the settlement, also said former Warner Chilcott President W. Carl Reichel was arrested on Thursday in Boston and charged with one count of conspiring to pay kickbacks.
At least four other people have pleaded guilty or been charged over Warner Chilcott’s activities, the department said.
The settlement resolves charges that from 2009 to 2013, Warner Chilcott illegally marketed seven drugs, including Asacol to treat ulcerative colitis, and Actonel and Atelvia to treat post-menopausal osteoporosis.
Investigators said the improper activities included the making of payments or offering of perks such as expensive restaurant meals to persuade doctors to prescribe the drugs.
In the criminal part of the case, Warner Chilcott agreed to pay a $22.94 million fine and admit to paying kickbacks, improperly inducing insurers to pay for Atelvia prescriptions, and making unsubstantiated claims about Actonel.
The company also agreed to pay $102.06 million to the U.S. government and states to resolve civil charges that it caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs.
Allergan, which is based in Dublin, Ireland and has offices in Parsippany, New Jersey, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reichel, 57, of Chester, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty at a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal in Boston, and was released without bail, his lawyer Joe Savage said.
“The charges brought today by the U.S. Attorney’s office are false,” said Savage, a partner at Goodwin Procter. “For more than 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry, Carl Reichel worked hard and did the right thing, and these baseless claims can’t change that.”
Whistleblowers who sued Warner Chilcott under the federal False Claims Act in 2011 will receive about $22.9 million from the civil settlement, the Justice Department said.
Warner Chilcott was acquired by Actavis Plc in October 2013. Actavis bought Allergan in March 2015 and took its name.
Allergan confirmed on Thursday that it is in preliminary talks to merge with drugmaker Pfizer Inc.
The cases are U.S. ex rel Alexander et al v. Warner Chilcott Plc et al, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 11-01121; and U.S. v. Reichel in the same court, No. 15-cr-10324. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alan Crosby)