Last week the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis International AG, got hit with two lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Novartis co-opted the independence of certain pharmacists and turned them into salespeople.” – U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Manhattan
According to news reports, US Attorney Preet Bhararahas said Novartis tried to conceal the scheme by omitting the agreements from rebate and discount contracts with pharmacies. One pharmacist in Los Angeles was allegedly offered a “bonus” rebate of 5% of their pharmacy’s annual Myfortic sales equaling several hundred thousand dollars in exchange for switching at least 1,000 patients to Myfortic.
Another complaint involves an Arkansas pharmacy increasing sales of Myfortic from $100,000 to $1 million over four years, after being compelled by Novartis. Lawsuit filings describe the details of Novartis reps’ “lavish” wining and dining of doctors as well.
Shockingly, the drug maker just paid $422.5 million in 2010 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor settling criminal and civil liability charges involving their marketing of the epilepsy drug, Trileptal and several other medications.
A 5-year Corporate Integrity Agreement was signed in September 2010 as a result of the settlement. However, both lawsuits accuse the company of a variety of infractions that occurred afterwards.
Novartis is “committed to high standards of ethical business conduct and regulatory compliance in the sale and marketing of our products.” – Julie Masow, Novartis Spokeswoman
If Novartis is convicted of paying people to buy their treatments, and therefore violating anti-kickback statutes, they could be penalized with exclusion – this term means they would be prohibited from contracts with U.S. federal healthcare programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.
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