Teva Pharmaceutical’s U.S. unit indicted on price-fixing charges

Justice Department expected to announce charges soon

WASHINGTON—The U.S. business of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has been indicted on charges the drugmaker fixed prices on generic drugs, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The Justice Department is expected to announce the charges imminently, the person said.

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The indictment is the highest-profile action in a long-running investigation of the generic-drug industry that has resulted in more than 10 cases against companies and executives.

Most companies so far have agreed to settle charges by paying criminal penalties, admitting wrongdoing and agreeing to cooperate, in exchange for deferred prosecution agreements in which the government would drop the cases eventually, so long as the defendant companies fulfilled their obligations under the settlements.

Among those that reached such deals were Novartis AG’s Sandoz subsidiary, which in March agreed to pay a $195 million criminal penalty, and Taro Pharmaceuticals Inc., which agreed last month to pay $205.7 million.

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Teva had met with top DOJ brass to try to persuade them not to bring a case, and it was resistant to a settlement that would have included a deferred prosecution agreement and a requirement that the company admit wrongdoing, the person familiar with the matter said.

A Teva spokeswoman declined to comment.

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TEVATEVA PHARMACEUTICALS INDUSTRIES LTD.8.64-0.21-2.37%

Teva, which had nearly $17 billion in sales last year, is among the largest pharmaceutical companies globally. The company has been challenged in recent years by the collapse of generic drug prices and a heavy debt load, seeing shares fall more than 80% since 2015. New management initiated a restructuring.

In addition to financial penalties, a felony conviction of Teva could lead to its exclusion from federal health-care programs.

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The charges are the latest headache for Teva, which also is facing price-fixing lawsuits from state attorneys general and private plaintiffs.

The company’s U.S. unit also was hit with a separate civil lawsuit from the Justice Department earlier this month alleging it engaged in a scheme to game the Medicare system and prop up high prices for its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. Teva denied the allegations.

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