Last June, an appeals court in Algeria upheld a $25 million fine against Sanofi and a one-year suspended prison sentence for Thierry Lefebvre, its general manager in the North African nation, for overcharging for drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Now, Lefebvre is being replaced, although the drugmaker insists the change is part of a scheduled, three-year rotation and has nothing to do with the embarrassing episode, according to media reports.
"In the context of the evolution of his career at Sanofi, Lefebvre, serving nearly three years, was promoted and called for new important functions in the group," according to a translation of a statement that Sanofi provided to El Watan, an Algerian news outlet. The drugmaker insisted that the change has "absolutely" no connection with the overcharging case (read here). We asked a Sanofi spokesman for comment and will update you accordingly.
As noted previously, the complaint was filed last year by Algerian Customs, which maintained that Sanofi overpriced imported drugs and materials that were charged to its local subsidiary, a practice that is reportedly used widely by foreign drugmakers who face bookkeeping hurdles for locally made goods. Customs officials actually filed complaints against a dozen companies, both laboratories and importers, but identities were not disclosed (back story).
Prosecutors had initially demanded a three-year sentence for Lefebre and a fine of up to twice the value of the alleged infraction. But Sanofi was excluded from a project to build a center for biotechnology near Algiers, which has been in discussion for more than a year between the government and PhRMA, but has been clouded by disagreement over the extent to which Algeria may become dependent on drugmakers from the US, according to the reports we cited in an earlier post.
El Watan quoted Antoine Ortoli, a Sanofi senior vp in charge of intercontinental region, as saying that the drug maker welcomes "the work (completed) for nearly three years by Thierry Lefebvre on the Algerian market, (which) has many challenges in a sometimes complex (environment), and the group is grateful. (He) is a leading contributor (who is) called for new and important functions within Sanofi in Paris." Lefebvre is being replaced by Pierre Labbe, who is the former ceo of the Diamal automobile and managing director of its CFAO pharmaceutical distributor.