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U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear ex-InterMune CEO's appeal

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington December 3, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington December 3, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not review the fraud conviction of former InterMune Inc Chief Executive Scott Harkonen for a statement he made about the effectiveness of one of the company's drugs.

Harkonen was prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for promoting the use of Actimmune as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease, in a news release the company issued in 2002.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not approved the drug for that purpose. The drug was approved for treatment of chronic granulomatous and malignant osteopetrosis, which are genetic disorders.

Prosecutors said one year of treatment with Actimmune cost $50,000 and Harkonen's aim was to increase sales of the drug.

Harkonen, InterMune CEO from 1998 to 2003, was indicted in 2008 and convicted of one count of mail fraud. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

The conviction was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a March 2013 ruling. On appeal to the Supreme Court, Harkonen's lawyers questioned whether the statement in the news release was sufficient to warrant the conviction.

Harkonen, a doctor by training, was convicted based on his statement that data from a medical study signaled that the drug worked for the off-label use of treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Separately, InterMune paid $36 million to settle government claims relating to the off-label marketing of the drug.

The case is Harkonen v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-180.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and John Wallace)