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U.S. Attorney Seeks Records of Novartis “Sham” Events for Doctors

Lawsuit alleges health care fraud

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney has asked Novartis AG to provide records of approximately 80,000 “sham” events in which the government says doctors were wined and dined so they would prescribe the company’s cardiovascular drugs. The Swiss drug maker and the U.S. Attorney’s office are engaged in a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges Novartis provided illegal kickbacks to health care providers through bogus educational programs at high-end restaurants and sports bars where the drugs were barely discussed, according to a report from BloombergBusiness.

The case is U.S. v. Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., 11-CV-0071, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

In its filing, the U.S. said it needs the requested information to support its allegation that Novartis defrauded federal health-care programs of hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade by inducing doctors to prescribe its medications through “sham” speaker events.

Novartis claims that the U.S. has “exploded” the size of the case by demanding information about as many as 80,000 promotional events set up by its salespeople.

Last year, Novartis agreed to pay $390 million to settle a lawsuit in which the U.S. government claimed that the Swiss company paid kickbacks to pharmacies to boost sales of some of its prescription drugs. The company neither admitted nor denied liability.

Source: BloombergBusiness; March 26, 2016.

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