Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Novartis To Pay Billions for Kickback Scheme

The U.S. Department of Justice says that Novartis should pay up to $3.35 billion in damages and civil fines for using kickbacks to boost sales of two drugs that caused federal health care programs to overpay for medicines, according to documents filed in federal court in New York.


The feds argue that Novartis violated the False Claims Act by using different plans, including rebates, to induce specialty pharmacies to boost prescriptions for two drugs: the Myfortic treatment for kidney transplants and Exjade, a medicine used for reducing excess iron in patients who undergo blood transfusions.
In its filing, the Justice Department is seeking up to $1.52 billion in damages, which represents triple the amount of money that Medicare and Medicaid paid for the drugs as a result of kickbacks between 2004 and 2013. The feds are also seeking up to $1.83 billion in fines – or $5,500 to $11,000 – for each of more than 166,000 allegedly false claims that were submitted for reimbursement to the health care sales manager.
Two years ago, the Justice Department and about a dozen states joined the litigation and a trial date for the lawsuit brought by the feds is set to begin in November. We should note that the feds also joined a separate whistleblower lawsuit filed by another former Novartis employee. In that suit, court document allege that Novartis paid for lavish trips and that speaker dinners given for doctors were purportedly kickbacks that used to induce them to prescribe Novartis drugs, according to court documents.
In a statement, a Novartis spokeswoman writes us that the document filed by the feds is a pre-trial order,which is a standard procedural step in which all parties submit an overview of their case and a list of the documents and witnesses they plan to utilize at trial. Novartis continues to dispute the allegations and is continuing to defend itself in this litigation.”

Last month, by the way, Express Scripts agreed to pay $60 million to resolve allegations by the feds that one of its business units participated in the kickback scheme. Last year, another specialty pharmacy, BioScrip, agreed to pay $15 million to settle allegations as part of the same litigation.


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