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Message - December 11, 2001
ICN Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud


COSTA MESA, Calif., Dec 11 (Reuters) - Drugmaker ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NYSE:ICN) said on Tuesday it will pay $5.6 million and plead guilty to securities fraud for misleading investors on the status of an application for its flagship hepatitis C treatment.

The plea bargain settles a six-year investigation by the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, the Costa Mesa, California-based company said in a statement.

ICN said it agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count for failing to disclose until, Feb. 17, 1995 a negative letter received from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 1994 on the status of the company's application for Virazole, known generically as Ribavarin, as a stand-alone treatment for chronic hepatitis C.

The FDA ultimately turned down the marketing application and the drug was eventually approved for use in combination with another hepatitis drug.

As a result of the plea bargain, ICN said it will be on probation for three years. In return, the U.S. Attorney will not prosecute or further investigate the company or its officers, will close its investigation, and will not bring additional charges.

Shares of ICN, which said it took reserves for the settlement last year, were up 32 cents, or 1 percent, at $31.26 late on the New York Stock Exchange.

ICN is also facing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors.

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