BALTIMORE, JAN. 23 -- A former top Food and Drug Administration official was sentenced today to up to 10 months in prison after his perjury conviction for denying to investigators he accepted meals from representatives of the generic drug industry he helped regulate.
Marvin Seife, 66, former chief of the FDA's generic drug division, also was fined $25,000 by U.S. District Judge John R. Hargrove.
Hargrove recommended that Seife, now living in San Antonio, serve five months in a work-release facility and five months in home detention. But probation officials said federal sentencing rules require that Seife be held in prison for at least half of his sentence.
Seife's attorney, Hamilton P. Fox, said he will appeal the conviction. Seife remained free on personal bond today, pending the appeal.
Seife is the highest-ranking FDA official to be convicted in an ongoing fraud and bribery investigation of the agency and the lucrative generic drug industry it regulates.
So far, five FDA employees, seven executives of generic drug firms, one consultant and three drug manufacturing companies have been convicted on charges ranging from racketeering to giving and receiving thousands of dollars in cash, furniture, free trips and other gratuities.
Parallel investigations by the Justice Department and Congress have prompted calls for FDA reform and an end to what prosecutors have called a cozy relationship between the FDA and the generic drug industry.
Generic drugs are lower-priced versions of brand-name products whose patents have expired, making them available for copying. Investigators say this has created an atmosphere in which fraud and corruption can flourish as generic makers compete to have their products approved by the FDA ahead of their competitors.
At Seife's sentencing, U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox said the case went beyond a few free meals that Seife denied accepting. He said Seife "set a moral tone in the generic drug division that resulted in corruption throughout the industry."
Seife was convicted Oct. 31 of lying twice in a 1989 affidavit to federal investigators when he denied accepting meals. Confronted during his trial with evidence of 14 such meals, Seife said he did not remember them and that he was heavily sedated with aspirin for arthritis when he signed the affidavit.