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Opioid Overdose Treatment Drug Company Axes Top Lawyer

April 14, 2020, 6:34 PM

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s longtime legal head has left the company as part of an effort to simplify management by “removing a layer” from its organizational structure.

Jason Shandell, general counsel since December 2008 and president of Amphastar since June 2013, resigned April 10 from both roles, as well as his position as a member of the specialty pharmaceutical company’s board of directors, according to a Monday press release and securities filing by Amphastar.

Shandell will receive nearly $2.43 million in cash severance and Amphastar has agreed to vest 80% of its unvested stock options and restricted stock units, the generic drug maker said. Bloomberg data shows that Shandell owns roughly $2.85 million in Amphastar stock.

Amphastar has also agreed to provide Shandell with three years of health care coverage and purchase at fair market value his ownership interest in subsidiary Amphastar Nanjing Pharmaceuticals Inc. Amphastar has not yet filed its 2019 proxy statement.

A proxy filed by the company for the previous year shows that Shandell earned more than $2.58 million in total compensation from the company during 2018, including $964,586 in cash. Amphastar said at the time that Shandell’s “experience as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry and legal training qualifies him to serve on our board of directors.”

Shandell joined Amphastar as a corporate counsel in March 2008 before being promoted to the company’s top in-house legal role later that year. Shandell previously served as director of technology at online real estate company Move Inc. and as a corporate counsel at biotechnology giant Amgen Inc. after starting his career at a predecessor to the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Amphastar’s Legal Battles

Shandell didn’t respond to a request for comment about his departure, nor did Amphastar when asked if it had determined who will replace him as in-house legal chief. Jack Zhang, a non-lawyer who co-founded Amphastar in 1996 and currently serves as its CEO and chief scientific officer, has taken over Shandell’s role as president of the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based company.

Amphastar, which was sued in February by two rival drug companies over patents related to the injectable heart drug Lexiscan, specializes in developing and manufacturing inhalation and intranasal medical products. The company came under fire several years ago for raising the price of naloxone, a drug used as an emergency treatment for opioid overdoses.

The Food and Drug Administration dealt Amphastar a setback in early 2017 when it rejected the company’s bid to approve an intranasal device to administer naloxone. In its statement announcing Shandell’s departure, Amphastar said it’s currently “developing multiple proprietary pipeline products for injectable and intranasal dosage forms, including a new drug application for intranasal naloxone.”

Bloomberg Law data shows that Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, K&L Gates, and Michelman & Robinson have handled nearly 34% of Amphastar’s litigation work since 2007, the year before Shandell took over as the company’s general counsel.

Wilson Sonsini has advised Amphastar in a long-running dispute with generic drug rivals Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sandoz Inc. over an anticoagulant drug. Momenta and Sandoz agreed to pay nearly $60 million last year to Amphastar.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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