Novartis faces bribery probe in Greece

Novartis is facing an investigation into bribery allegations by authorities in Greece, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors raided the Athens offices of Novartis as part of an ongoing probe over bribery allegations, a court official told the news outlet.

The probe was launched after the Greek media reported that Novartis representatives had been bribing doctors and public officials.

There is no other evidence apart from the reports, and Greek authorities have asked US judicial authorities for assistance, said Reuters.

Other reports suggest two Novartis whistleblowers submitted documents to US authorities with details of payments to doctors, both private and in the public healthcare system, to encourage them to use Novartis’ drugs and boost sales.

Novartis is also under investigation by US authorities in relation to its business practices there, although it denies allegations that it operated a doctor kickback scheme that led to it overcharging the federal government.

A Novartis spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “We are aware of media reports about our business practices in Greece and are actively seeking further information. We are fully co-operating with requests from local and foreign authorities.”

“Novartis is committed to the highest standards of ethical business conduct and regulatory compliance in all aspects of its work and takes any allegation of misconduct extremely seriously.”

The industry will be hoping to steer clear of any further bribery controversies, after several pharma companies faced steep fines, and damning headlines, to settle cases alleging they bribed doctors to prescribe their products.

Novartis last year paid the SEC $25 million to settle an investigation into similar bribery allegations in China.

In 2015, Novartis paid $390 million to settle US charges that illegal payments were made to speciality pharmacies in exchange for inducing patients to refill certain medications.

Teva last month paid US authorities a fine of $519 million to settle bribery charges in Russia, Ukraine and Mexico.

The Israel-based company paid a criminal fine of $283 million, and forfeited profits of $236 million, to the US Securities and Exchange Commission financial regulator – the largest criminal fine imposed against a pharma company for violating US anti-bribery laws.

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