M.S. Charity Wants "Money Laundering" Allegation Scrubbed From Facebook

Last Updated May 11, 2011 11:58 AM EDT

A non-profit organization supporting research into multiple sclerosis that was linked in a lawsuit to an alleged "money laundering thing" at Serono Labs sent a cease-and-desist memo to an M.S. activist, demanding she take down information about the case from her Facebook page. The activist, TV and movie soundtrack singer Joan Beal, told BNET she complied because "I don't have the stomach for it."

It's another example of the way managers are turning to attorneys when debates in the healthcare business get rough. Bayer (BAYRY) recently lost a legal case in Switzerland in which it tried to stop TV reports about deaths associated with its Yaz contraceptive. And GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) once employed a top R&D exec to contact scientists engaged in independent research on its troubled diabetes drug, Avandia, to tell them it was "not [in] anyone's best interest."

In the Serono case, the company paid $44.3 million to settle allegations with the Department of Justice that it "funneled" kickbacks to doctors through the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Clinics, a non-profit group. The alleged kickbacks rewarded them for prescribing Rebif, Serono's M.S. drug, and CMSC took a cut of the money it passed on, the suit claimed.

The CMSC was not named as a defendant in the suit. Its lawyer, John Edwards, denies the charity did anything wrong. His email to Beal stated in part:
Your Facebook page contains libelous statements concerning the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. It also contains a link to "freepdfhosting.com%2F543bcc781b.pdf&h=f2fcd," which itself contains a United States District Court complaint THAT WAS FILED UNDER SEAL.
That complaint includes libelous and false statements. The party who allegedly made the statements has denied them.

This firm has been retained by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers to defend its rights and to seek damages.

Demand is hereby made that you immediately remove the libelous materials from your page, and cause the pdf complaint to be removed from all places in which you have posted it.
(The full text of the email is reproduced after the "related stories" list, below.)

No liability admitted
The complaint was unsealed after the settlement, in which Serono denied the allegations and did not admit liability.

Beal expressed concern to BNET over a potential for a conflict of interest between CMSC and Serono. CMSC runs the North American Research Committee on M.S., which collects and studies data about the disease. It is funded by Serono, among other donors.

Beal's group, CCSVI, takes the view that the cause of M.S. isn't a degenerative brain disorder but obstructed jugular veins slowing bloodflow from the brain. Venous obstructions can be treated with angioplasty and stents. Beal's husband, Jeff, has M.S. which she believes is in remission due to venous stents.
  • UPDATE: Although Beal is a board member of CCSVI, the group did not endorse her actions or the Facebook page she operates.
Edwards, the CMSC lawyer, said that the allegation in the case that a Serono executive said "we have a whole money-laundering thing going on" with CMSC was false: "There's no way in the world [CMSC] was involved in any way in money laundering."
  • UPDATE: The CMSC later released this statement, condemning the "baseless allegations" and noting that "the person to whom the allegation was attributed categorically denied ever having said such a thing. The CMSC and its personnel were never even directly accused of doing anything improper and certainly were never found guilty of any impropriety."
*No relation
Related: Text of email sent to Joan Beal:
Your Facebook page contains libelous statements concerning the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. It also contains a link to "freepdfhosting.com%2F543bcc781b.pdf&h=f2fcd," which itself contains a United States District Court complaint THAT WAS FILED UNDER SEAL.
That complaint includes libelous and false statements. The party who allegedly made the statements has denied them.
This firm has been retained by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers to defend its rights and to seek damages.
Demand is hereby made that you immediately remove the libelous materials from your page, and cause the pdf complaint to be removed from all places in which you have posted it. You are further directed to inform the undersigned when this has been accomplished. However, if you are represented by counsel in this matter, it is your counsel who should contact us.
This demand is sent with a full reservation of all of our client's rights and remedies, both legal and equitable. These remedies will include, but not be limited to, the economic harm you have caused to our client.





John R. Edwards, Jr., Esq.
Price, Meese, Shulman & D'Arminio, P.C.
Mack-Cali Corporate Center
50 Tice Boulevard
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey 07677
201-391-3737 (fax 201-391-9360)
jedwards@pricemeese.com

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