PORTLAND, Maine

Whales have worse than average year for entanglements

Federal officials say last year was slightly worse than average for the entanglement of large whales, which is a major threat to the animals' populations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report Thursday on the subject. The agency says the number of cases nationally was 76, and that 70 entanglements involved live animals, while the rest were dead. The 10-year average is closer to 70 entanglements.

The agency says about 70 percent of the confirmed cases were attributable to fishing gear, such as traps, nets and fishing line.

NOAA says entanglements happened along all U.S. coasts except for the Gulf of Mexico. Entanglement is a major concern for jeopardized species such as the North Atlantic right whale. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium estimates that about 411 of the whales remain.

BOSTON

SF-based drug company to pay $360M in probe

A pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay $360 million to resolve allegations that it used a charitable foundation to pay kickbacks to Medicare patients.

The U.S. attorney's office in Boston announced the settlement Thursday with Actelion Pharmaceuticals US Inc., which was acquired last year by health care giant Johnson & Johnson.

Federal prosecutors say South San Francisco-based Actelion illegally used a purportedly independent charity to cover the co-payments of thousands of Medicare patients taking its pulmonary arterial high blood pressure drugs.

Prosecutors say that helped the company convince patients to buy its drugs when the prices it set would have otherwise prevented them from doing so.

Actelion spokeswoman Caroline Pavis says in a statement that the company is committed to complying with all laws and regulations.

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