Drug company Novartis is ordered to pay a $370 million fine for fraud. The fraud lawsuit proved the company threatened specialty pharmacies to push certain drugs and paid them with kickbacks when certain sales goals were met.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals was ordered to pay a $370 million fine that settled a fraud suit against them brought in Manhattan. The company was convicted of fraud in a case involving kickbacks to certain pharmacies who convinced patients that they needed to take more Novartis drugs.
The drug-pushing scheme was hatched by Novartis in 2007 ,and involved a drug called Exjade, according to USA Today. It seems that sales of Exjade were not living up to expectations or meeting certain sales quotas, so, Novartis allegedly contacted specialty pharmacies and pressured them into hiring nurses to call Exjade patients. The nurses were told that they were to convince the patients to refill their Exjade prescriptions right away, under the pretense that they were providing patients with information and education.
The drug is used by people who receive long-term blood transfusions. The drug is supposed to prevent them from getting too much iron from the transfusions. The patients began to stop taking the drug, which caused sales targets to plummet at the home office. It seems the side effects from the drug were happening more frequently than the company had claimed they would. The side effects for Exjade are liver and kidney failure.
While Novartis instructed pharmacies to instruct nurses to convince the patients to take the drug, the script that was provided didn’t mention any side effects. Novartis threatened to pull all of its drug business out of pharmacies who didn’t cooperate. Those that did cooperate were paid kickbacks if certain target sales goals were met. These specialty pharmacies tend to have a focused customer base of people with serious diseases and afflictions who are prescribed specialty and highly priced drugs.
The specialty pharmacies have extremely close ties with the drug companies. In addition to the fine, the Manhattan court ordered Novartis to provide support for their patients and to comply with federal healthcare laws.