BALTIMORE, OCT. 31 -- A former top official of the Food and Drug Administration was convicted today of lying to federal investigators when he denied having accepted meals from executives of the generic drug industry.
Marvin Seife, 66, longtime chief of the FDA's generic drug division until his retirement last December, was found guilty of two counts of perjury in the continuing probe of corruption in the generic drug industry and at FDA headquarters in Rockville.
U.S. District Judge John R. Hargrove set sentencing for Jan. 23. Seife, who now lives in San Antonio, faces up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. He is free on bond pending sentencing.
Defense attorney Hamilton P. Fox said he is considering an appeal.
The Seife case goes far beyond a few free meals, prosecutors argued to the jury of six women and six men during the seven-day trial.
In his 18-year career as head of the generic drug division, Seife "set the tone for and presided over an unprecedented level of mismanagement and corruption that almost brought down the generic drug industry," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey R. Garinther.
Then when Seife was caught, he lied, Garinther said. His was a "corruption of arrogance," said Breckinridge L. Willcox, Maryland's chief federal prosecutor.
In contrast, Seife presented himself as a champion of generic drugs and the small companies, many minority owned, that struggled to get their cheaper, copycat versions of brand-name drugs into the hotly competitive market and available to elderly and low-income consumers.
By befriending generic drug executives and occasionally having meals with them, Seife said, "I felt I was giving them the necessary encouragement to gain acceptance," Seife testified. He said he believed that having occasional meals with industry officials was permitted under FDA regulations.
Seife was charged with lying twice in an Oct. 25, 1989, affidavit to federal investigators when he denied accepting such meals. When confronted at the trial with at least 14 meals documented by prosecutors, he acknowledged the meals, but said he had not remembered them at the time he signed the affidavit. He said he has arthritis and was heavily sedated with aspirin, causing his memory to fade.
The Seife case brings to 15 the number of FDA employees or drug company executives convicted in the investigation of alleged bribery and fraud. Among them were four FDA chemists and other subordinates of Seife who pleaded guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in illegal gratuities. Several executives and their companies pleaded guilty to giving the gratuities.