Novartis must face kickback allegations in court

pharmafile | April 2, 2019 | News story | Manufacturing and Production Novartis, US, government, kickbacks, prescriptions, whistle blower, whistle-blower 

The US government has accused Novartis of paying doctors millions of dollars in kickbacks as part of a “company-wide kickback scheme.”

The Swiss multinational must fight the allegations in court after District Judge Paul Gardephe ruled that the company has to face a trial.

The US Judge also rejected the Swiss firm’s bid to keep key government evidence out of the case while ruling that the government does not have to prove a direct ‘quid pro quo’ agreement between Novartis and doctors, in order for the company to be liable.

“We are disappointed in today’s decision and look forward to presenting our case at trial,” Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff said in an email to Reuters. “We continue to believe that the government has insufficient evidence to support its claims.”

The case comes after whistle-blower and former Novartis sales rep Oswald Bilotta filed a lawsuit against the firm in 2011.

The lawsuit, which was taken over by the US government in 2013, alleges doctors were paid kickbacks in the form of speaking fees at ‘sham’ educational events.

While one doctor was paid to speak at his own office eight times, Novartis treated doctors to lavish meals including one at a Japanese restaurant costing $9,750 for just three people.

Meanwhile Medicare and Medicaid were charged millions for drugs prescribed by doctors who received kickbacks between 2002 and 2011. The government is seeking damages of three times what it was billed for the allegedly fraudulent claims.

The company has however settled various civil and criminal cases before having paid $422 million in 2010 and $390 million in 2015.   

Louis Goss

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