Two False Claims Act Lawsuits Filed Against Novartis

Scott Kagan, Esq

Novartis, the pharmaceutical giant, has once again found themselves under scrutiny. Novartis is being accused of paying illegal kickbacks to doctors to "persuade" them to prescribe Novartis products that were reimbursed by Federal Health Care Programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The lawsuit, the second of its kind against Novartis, alleges that as a result of Novartis' conduct, the Federal Government paid false claims for reimbursement on Novartis products. Previously, Novartis was sued for allegedly paying kickbacks disguised as rebates and discounts to pharmacies in exchange for the pharmacies switching patients on competitor or generic drugs to Novartis products.

Novartis in violation of federal law and their own company policies, paid out over $65 million between January 2002 and November 2011 to doctors to speak about certain drugs, specifically Lotrel and Valturna (hypertension) and the diabetes drug Starlix, at events that were often little or nothing more than social occasions and dinners. Novartis by spending millions of dollars yearly on such programs, exponentially increased prescription numbers by doctors who were paid to speak and/or attend the event.

Payments and lavish dinners were facades for the kick-backs paid to the speakers and attendees in return for writing prescriptions for Novartis products. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement that based on Novartis' multiple kickback fraud allegations, there are questions as to whether Novartis is getting the message. Perhaps their greed blinds them to the repercussions of their actions.