Novartis may Settle US Lawsuit for $1 billion
Novartis may be close to a billion-dollar settlement with the US government to resolve a whistleblower lawsuit accusing the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant of bribing doctors to boost prescriptions of its drugs.
The investigation was initially launched eight years ago with the 2011 lawsuit. The US government intervened in 2013, alleging violations of the False Claims Act. Specifically, the allegations were said to include kickbacks to doctors for prescribing two hypertension drugs, Lotrel and Valturna, along with the diabetes drug Starlix.
The whistleblowers claimed the scheme involved “sham events” such as $10,000 dinners and fishing trips. Reports said the actions may have defrauded the government of millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid billing over the course of nearly a decade.
In early April 2019, a US district judge reportedly admitted some 79,000 corporate events as admissible as evidence in a trial expected to start in May, though a Novartis spokesperson asserted that the events were not opportunities to bribe doctors but rather part of the company’s educational program to inform physicians about the company’s drugs.
According to the trade journal Stat, Novartis, which has consistently denied the charges, had requested the lawsuit be suspended due to lack of evidence; however, a judge ordered it to go ahead.
A first hearing, due to take place at the beginning of this this week, did not happen, which the journal’s sources said indicates that an out-of court-settlement with the government has been or will be reached.
Separately, four Greek government officials were cleared in April of charges they participated in a scheme in which political figures accepted bribes from Novartis over drug pricing. The case was dismissed after a company internal probe in March turned up no evidence of “inappropriate payments.”