Novartis Faces New Kickback Charges From the Federal Government

United States District Judge Colleen McMahon on January 9, 2014 unsealed an amended complaint filed by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York containing additional healthcare fraud claims against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.  According to the amended complaint, Novartis orchestrated a kickback scheme with Bioscrip, Inc., a specialty pharmacy, by referring new patients to them and giving them rebates.  BioScrip in return was to increase refills of Exjade through recommendations to patients, emphasizing the benefits and understating Exjade’s side effects. Exjade is an iron chelation drug that is used by patients who have overloaded iron counts due to blood transfusions. 

According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara ,“the Government alleges that, “Novartis is caught having orchestrated yet another scheme whereby it used the lure of kickbacks to co-opt a healthcare providers’ independence and, in this case, turned pharmacy employees at BioScrip into salespeople for Exjade. By allegedly having BioScrip promote refills under the guise of purported ‘counseling’ and ‘education,’ Novartis caused patients to receive one-sided advice that did not discuss Exjade’s serious, potentially life-threatening, side effects. Further, by hiding this illegal quid pro quo from federal healthcare programs, Novartis caused the public to pay tens of millions of dollars for kickback-tainted drugs.”

In 2010, pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation paid $422.5 million to resolve criminal and civil liability for the unlawful marketing of Trileptal, Diovan, Zelnorm, Sandostatin, Exforge and Tekturna.  Of that figure, Novartis paid $237.5 million to resolve civil allegations that it unlawfully promoted its drug Trileptal for unapproved uses and that it paid illegal remuneration to healthcare providers to induce them to prescribe the company’s products. Nolan Auerbach & White represented three key whistleblowers in these cases, which were brought under the qui tam, (whistleblower) provisions of the False Claims Act.

More information for whistleblowers is located at the Nolan Auerbach & White website.