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Menendez hammers opponent drug settlement

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez’s latest re-election television advertisement steps up the attack on his Republican challenger, former Celgene Corp. chief executive Bob Hugin, for a $280 million legal settlement over the company’s cancer-drug marketing.

The Democrat’s ad, the third in three weeks from the 64-year-old senior senator from New Jersey, follows months of mostly unanswered lobs from Hugin, also 64. A self-funding multimillionaire, Hugin since February has aired commercials spotlighting a federal corruption case against Menendez that ended in a hung jury and the charges’ dismissal. Menendez has said the charges were baseless.

Last month, a Menendez ad titled “Greed” criticized Celgene for raising cancer-drug prices. The latest flashes Hugin photos as the narrator says Celgene endangered patients by hiding information about “potentially fatal side effects.”

Celgene last year settled a federal whistle-blower lawsuit for $280 million amid allegations that the pharmaceutical had marketed two cancer drugs, Thalomid and Revlimid, for uses not approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Summit, New Jersey-based Celgene did not admit liability.

New Jersey hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since 1972, and President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in the state. But Hugin’s odds appear to have improved. While a Monmouth University poll in April showed Menendez ahead by 21 percentage points, another by Quinnipiac University last month showed a tighter race, with Mendendez’s lead at 6 percentage points.

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