Amersham to Pay

$11 Million to Bracco

Two Princeton companies are parties in what is being called one of the biggest false advertising judgments in history. A federal judge in Trenton has ordered that GE Healthcare pay $11.3 million for making false advertising claims about competitor Bracco Diagnostic’s X-ray contrast agent.

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson held on March 25 that Amersham Health Inc., a British company with U.S. offices at 101 Carnegie Center that was bought by GE Healthcare in 2004, violated the Lanham Act with false and misleading claims that its contrast agent, used to improve X-ray quality, was superior to one made by Bracco Diagnostics Inc., with offices at 107 College Road East.

Wolfson held that Bracco was entitled to reimbursement of $8,326,500 for past “corrective” ads and $3,050,000 it planned to spend on future ones, and she entered an injunction against future Amersham ads making the same false claims.

However, she denied Bracco’s request that Amersham pay $1 billion in profits from sales of its contrast agent, finding Amersham’s acts were not willful and the false ads did not affect major buyers’ purchasing decisions.

GE Healthcare spokesperson Ryan Fitzgerald said that all-in-all his company is pleased with the opinion. “We are disappointed that we were found at fault,” he said in a phone conversation, “but we are pleased that the amount was much less than Bracco had sued for.” Furthermore, he said that the judge wrote in her opinion that most of his company’s messages “were true and correct and that we had never attempted to manipulate or conceal data.” The same cannot be said for Bracco, he said.

Bracco spokesperson Andrea Calise, reached by telephone, vigorously objected to Fitzgerald’s characterization. “Bracco is very pleased with the judgment,” she said. “The larger amount is the excess healthcare professionals were paying. They were paying two to three times more for a product because they were told it was safer.”

GE Healthcare, then Amersham, was proclaiming that product safer than Bracco’s product because, she said, they had test results showing that one of their own imaging products was safer than another. Based on those results, the company was marketing that product as safer than any similar product on the market.

The suit claimed that Amersham’s promotion of its contrast agent, Visipaque, misconstrued a 2003 clinical study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study compared Visipaque with Omnipaque, another Amersham contrast agent, and found that Visipaque reduced the risk of nephropathy among certain patients with kidney problems. Visipaque is classified as an isotonic contrast agent, Omnipaque as a low osmolar contrast medium, or LOCM.

Bracco’s product, Isovue, also an LOCM, was not included in the study but Amersham’s brochures, websites and sales presentations extended the conclusions about Omnipaque to Isovue, and it claimed Visipaque caused fewer heart and kidney problems than Isovue.

Amersham disputed Bracco’s characterizations of its promotions. It said application of the study’s conclusions about Omnipaque to Isovue was a valid extrapolation. But Wolfson, after hearing from seven medical experts during a 39-day bench trial, ruled that “it has not established by the weight of clinical evidence that Visipaque is superior to all LOCM as a group or to Isovue individually.”

Wolfson ordered GE Healthcare to issue a press release that would also be posted on its website on the court’s decision, issue corrective advertisements, re-train its sales and marketing staff in accordance with the court’s decision, and “when citing studies in its advertising, plainly identify which studies the findings relate to and refer to the comparator drugs by either their brand or scientific names.”

Carlo Medici, Bracco’s CEO, said in a prepared statement that the ruling “highlights the importance of conducting pharmaceutical marketing in an ethically responsible manner and accurately presenting the results of clinical research to healthcare providers to ensure the best patient care.”

Fitzgerald said that GE Healthcare has not yet decided whether to appeal and is “keeping all of its options open.”

GE Healthcare (GE), 101 Carnegie Center, Princeton 08540; 609-514-6000; fax, 609-514-6572. Pascale Witz, CEO, medical diagnostics. www.gehealthcare.com.

Bracco Diagnostics Inc., 107 College Road East, Box 5225, Princeton 08543-5225; 609-514-2200; fax, 609-514-2424. Carlo Medici, CEO. www.bracco.com.

Recession Winner:

Liquidation Sales

‘In any economy there are some winners. We’re the winners in this economy.” So says Julie Davis, spokesperson for Liquidity Services. The Washington, D.C.-based company buys, aggregates, and sells goods of all kinds, many of them “less than new,” as Davis puts it. It then auctions pallets of them off on its website, www.liquidation.com.

The company holds the merchandise in a number of warehouses, including one in Cranbury that was “either the first or the second we opened,” says Davis. Several years old, the warehouse is busier than ever, and is hiring.

Davis says that a number of its buyers are newly laid-off workers. Many sell the merchandise — everything from flat panel TVs to bathing suits to power drills — through auction websites, including eBay and Amazon. Others, says Davis, are putting up their own websites, a process that has become easier as website software has become more user friendly.

Some of Liquidity Services’ buyers thought that selling iPods or chainsaws that had been returned to stores or cases of shoes from out-of-business department stores would be a stop gap measure until they could find a “real” job, but Davis says that some have done so well that they are planning to stick with the re-selling business.

Prices that successful bidders pay are “below wholesale,” says Davis. An example is a pallet of 19-inch flat-screen TVs — nine of them — selling for about $655, or some $72 apiece. Area buyers can pick up merchandise at the Cranbury warehouse.

Liquidity Services Inc. (LQDT), 5 Santa Fe Way, Cranbury 08517; 609-860-0044; fax, 609-860-0707. www.liquidation.com.

Crosstown Moves

Iron Mountain, 26 South Middlesex Avenue, Center Point at 8A, Jamesburg 08831; 609-409-7628. Gary Higley, managing director. www.ironmountain.com.

Iron Mountain, an information and document management company, has moved from South Middlesex Avenue in Jamesburg to South River Road in Cranbury.

Name Changes

Dollar Rent A Car, 2062 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville 08648; 609-882-5122; fax, 609-393-8200. Bernie Barron, general manager. www.friendlyrentacar.com.

Friendly Rent-A-Car has changed its name to Dollar Rent-A-Car.

HCI, 1 Independence Way, Suite 220, Princeton 08540; 609-987-5550. Les Leathem, SVP. Home page: www.acnielsenhci.com.

With the November deal between Nilsen and WPP Group to swap certain research assets complete, HCI, now part of WPP, has relocated from Millstone Road in East Windsor to Independence Way.

In November Nielsen transferred to WPP the rate and data company SRDS, as well as PERQ/HCI, which provides media research services in the healthcare field. It also transferred its 11 percent stake in three units that are part of the IBOPE Group, a Brazil-based firm specializing in market and opinion research. WPP already holds a 31 percent stake in IBOPE.

All of the assets that WPP is acquiring from Nielsen will be added to the Kantar Group, WPP’s information, insight and consultancy division, based in New York City. Kantar is also the unit into which TNS will be merged once that deal is completed, the holding company has said.

Two of the 17 employees from the Millstone Road office did not make the transfer to Independence Way, according to Charlie Hunt, a spokesman for Kantar, but the loss was not due to the deal.

Deaths

Carol Frascella, 53, on April 19. She worked for Cylogix and for Keane Inc. in Princeton Junction.

Delilah Hunt, 66, on April 16. She was a psychiatric nursing instructor at Mercer Medical Center.

Ellen G. Wexler, 73, on April 15. She was a producer and on-air correspondent for New Jersey Network public television. She later worked at Edith’s Lingerie on Nassau Street.

Bruce Coe, 78, on March 25. He was president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

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