(Bloomberg) -- Mark Timney faces the kind of allegations that can end careers.
The former Purdue Pharma LP chief executive officer is accused of playing a key role in fueling the opioid crisis, according to scores of lawsuits by state attorneys general and others. They allege that he directed staff to mislead doctors about the addictiveness of painkillers, which devastated communities across the U.S.
But outside the courtroom, Timney has already begun -- and almost finished -- his next act, which will pay him handsomely for just a year’s work.
Last December, about 18 months after leaving Purdue, Timney became CEO of Medicines Co., a Parsippany, New Jersey-based biotech firm with an experimental cholesterol-lowering treatment for cardiovascular disease. Last week, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG agreed to buy it in a $9.7 billion deal that’s expected to be completed early next year.
Timney’s stock options and small stake in Medicines are valued at $87.6 million at the offer price of $85 a share. After excluding the cost of exercising the options and the money he paid to acquire the shares, his take will total $68 million. Endpoint News reported on the expected windfall last week.
It’s a lot of money in the world of biotech, where share prices of fledgling firms -- and the bosses’ equity stakes -- can quickly multiply or plunge depending on the results of drug trials. It’s also far more than most public-company CEOs take home in a year, including those with substantially higher revenues and larger workforces.
The opioid epidemic has emerged as one of the nation’s most pressing health crises, claiming a life every 19 minutes, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, and its former top leaders and owners have emerged as central figures in the epidemic. They face more than 2,000 lawsuits alleging they deliberately pushed doctors to prescribe painkillers even for cases of minor pain and withheld information about how addictive they were.
Attorneys general in states including Connecticut and Massachusetts accused Timney, who became Purdue’s CEO in 2014, and other top executives of perpetuating deceptive business practices while pocketing millions of dollars.
Massachusetts said in its complaint that Timney directed sales representatives to push doctors to prescribe painkillers at higher doses and for longer periods, and to target prolific prescribers. Meanwhile, he received almost daily reports of abuse and overdoses, according to the complaint, which notes that more than 350 patients in the state died from opioid-related overdoses after being prescribed Purdue’s pills.
Michael Blash, a spokesman for Medicines Co., declined to comment on how the company’s board weighed the allegations against Timney before deciding to hire him.
“Mark is an accomplished and committed health-care leader,” Blash said in a phone interview.
Novartis conducted “comprehensive due diligence and feels comfortable with everything related to” Medicines Co., and the lawsuits against Timney “are a matter of public record,” a company spokeswoman said in an email, declining further comment.
“What it means to market pharmaceuticals in an ethical fashion is a shifting terrain,” said Michelle Mello, a professor of law and medicine at Stanford University. “When you see leaders move from one company to another, a board has to question how the company acculturates that person, and ensure that practices from an old setting aren’t brought with them.”
Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September and proposed settling claims against it for more than $10 billion. About $3 billion would come from the Sackler family, which owns the company, while the rest largely would come from future drug sales. Some experts said they doubt the cases will be resolved soon.
While at Purdue, Timney “achieved significant above-budget performance for revenue and operating income,” he says on his LinkedIn profile. He previously worked as president of global primary care at Merck & Co.
--With assistance from James Paton.
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