Novartis faces fresh bribery claims in Turkey

Novartis faces bribery claims in relation to drug prescriptions following reports from an anonymous Turkish whistleblower.

The claims relate to allegations that Novartis funnelled bribes to hospitals via Turkish consultancy firm Alp Aydin, and emerged on Tuesday. The whistleblower, reported by Reuters claims a total of $290,000 was paid to Alp Aydin during 2013 and 2014, resulting in a total of $85 million worth of market advantages.

The allegations, summarised in a 5,000 word email to Novartis chief executive Joe Jimenez and chairman of its audit and compliance committee Srikant Datar, claimed $50 million were gained from Turkish officials allowing the renaming of two Novartis drugs Ilaris (to Ibecta) and Gilenya (to Fingya). This process is said to be aimed at preventing price cuts being imposed on the drugs. In addition, Novartis is alleged to have enjoyed a $20 million increase in revenues from its multiple sclerosis, chronic lung disease and juvenile arthritis drugs being added to hospital formularies.

Novartis says it is investigating the allegations, specifically those relating to Alp Aydin payments to Turkish health officials and to Novartis Turkey’s hiring of relatives of high-prescribing doctors.

Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff told Reuters: “We take any allegation of inappropriate behaviour extremely seriously and investigate all allegations thoroughly. As a matter of policy, we don’t comment on such investigations even if the complainant decides to make them public.”

These new allegations join an already considerable list of supposed corruption cases for Novartis, following a $25 million settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over bribery claims in China, and the raiding of Novartis Korea offices in relation to potential kickbacks paid to doctors in order to increase drug sales.

Novartis’ relationship with Alp Aydin had already highlighted following an investigation by Turkey’s Social Security Institution into the consultancy firm. The investigation into its practices led to Novartis ending its relationship with the company.

Pharmaceutical companies have been heavily scrutinised by US officials over the last few years in relation to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The most high profile case occurred in 2013 when GlaxoSmithKline paid a £297 million settlement in connection with bribery charges in China in 2013.

Other companies that have recently settled, or are under investigation for, corruption allegations include Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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