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Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc. has agreed to pay more than $313 million and to plead guilty to obstruction of justice, distribution of the then-unapproved drug Levothroid and illegal promotion of Celexa for use in treating children and adolescents suffering from depression.

Forest Pharmaceuticals also will settle allegations that it caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the drug Lexapro as well as for Levothroid and Celexa, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Forest Pharmaceuticals, headquartered near St. Louis, is a wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based Forest Laboratories Inc. Celexa and Lexapro are antidepressants; Levothroid is used to treat thyroid deficiency.

Court papers in the case say that Forest Pharmaceuticals began distributing Levothroid in the early 1990s without first obtaining approval from federal regulators.

Regarding Celexa, Forest Pharmaceuticals promoted the drug for pediatric use despite limited approval only for adult depression, the court papers state.

From wire dispatches and staff reports