Novartis closing in on deal with US government over bribery allegations

Novartis is close to an agreement with the US government over allegations it bribed doctors to market its drugs, according to a press report.

Six years ago a former sales rep accused the Swiss pharma of using its speakers’ programmes to pay kickbacks to doctors who prescribed its drugs – and the US government joined the case.

It was due to go to trial in a district court in Manhattan last month but has been delayed indefinitely without reason, Bloomberg reported.

Citing a report in Stat, the news outlet said that on Tuesday, a letter mistakenly made public said the companies had made “significant progress” on reaching a deal.

The letter was written to District Judge Paul Gardephe by lawyers for US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, and was filed in the court docket and swiftly removed by court staff, according to Bloomberg.

A “monetary aspect” of the settlement has been submitted to the US Justice Department for expedited approval, according to the letter.

Novartis is also negotiating a new “corporate integrity agreement” with the inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department to improve efforts to comply with US laws, according to the report.

Agreements like this include obligations such as establishing a compliance officer and infrastructure, training, risk assessments, and outside monitoring by an independent review organisations.

The settlement is likely to be complete by Tuesday, Bloomberg reported, but parties will have until August 13 to finalise and execute it.

Novartis had been accused of paying thousands of doctors with speaking fees, fishing trips, and even outings at Hooters restaurants to boost sales of hypertension drugs Lotrel and Valturna, along with diabetes medication Starlix.

The Swiss pharma told Bloomberg that it is “engaged in settlement discussions with the Southern District of NY to resolve the ongoing Speaker Program litigation”, but could not provide further comment at the time.

A spokesperson for Berman declined to comment.

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