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Former Aegerion sales rep charged with defrauding U.S. insurers

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - A former Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc sales representative was arrested Tuesday on charges that he defrauded insurance companies into paying for the company's expensive cholesterol drug.

Mark Moffett was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in a criminal complaint unsealed in Massachusetts federal court. He was arrested in Illinois, according to court records.

"Mark is an innocent man," Kenneth Cunniff, Moffett's lawyer, said in an email. "He looks forward to having his day in court where we anticipate he will be found not guilty."

Aegerion agreed in September to pay $40.1 million to resolve U.S. investigations related to its marketing of the drug, Juxtapid. In November, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company merged with QLT Inc and became a subsidiary of the newly named Novelion Therapeutics Inc.

Novelion spokeswoman Amanda Murphy said the company terminated Moffett in January 2016.

"We are eager to put the problems that occurred under Aegerion's prior leadership behind us," the company said in a statement. "We have worked tirelessly to build a culture of integrity and ethics under our new management team and Board. Beyond that, we are not in a position to comment specifically on actions against former employees."

Juxtapid is approved only for patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a rare genetic disease, and many insurance companies require prior authorization before covering it, according to the criminal complaint against Moffett.

Prosecutors said in the complaint that in 2014 and 2015, Moffett conspired with others to provide false information to insurance companies so they would cover the drug, including fake medical records indicating that patients had been diagnosed with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia when they had not.

Prosecutors said Moffett filled out prior authorization forms with false information or caused others to do so. They said that unnamed co-conspirators working with Moffett at times impersonated doctors' employees on phone calls as part of the scheme.

Juxtapid cost $330,000 per year while the scheme was running, according to the complaint.

Moffett is the third person to face criminal charges related to the Aegerion's marketing of Juxtapid.

In February, a Georgia pediatric cardiologist, Eduardo Montana, pleaded guilty to wrongfully disclosing information about his young patients to an sales representative.

Kyle Tackett, a former Aegerion sales representative, was sentenced to three months' probation in Massachusetts federal court in February 2017 after pleading guilty to obstructing an investigation into the company. (Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)