The U.S. is asking Novartis AG to provide records of about 80,000 â€œshamâ€ events in which the government says doctors were wined and dined so they would prescribe the companyâ€™s cardiovascular drugs to their patients.
The Swiss drugmaker and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney are engaged in a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleges Novartis provided illegal kickbacks to health-care providers through bogus educational programs at high-end restaurants and sports bars where the drugs were barely discussed.
In a filing on Friday, the U.S. said it needs Novartis to provide information to support its allegation that the company defrauded federal health-care programs of hundreds of millions of dollars over a decade by inducing doctors to prescribe its medications through sham speaker events.
â€œThe requested documents go to the core issues in this case: whether educational materials were provided at these events; which doctors actually attended the events; how much money was spent on meals and honoraria; and indeed, most fundamentally, whether the underlying documentation shows that a particular event actually took place,â€ the government said in its court filing.
That filing came in response to a March 22 request by Novartis to the judge, seeking a hearing because the company says the U.S. has â€œexplodedâ€ the size of the case by demanding information about as many as 80,000 promotional events set up by its salespeople. Representatives of Basel-based Novartis didnâ€™t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the governmentâ€™s filing.
Last year Novartis agreed to pay $390 million to settle a lawsuit in which the U.S. government claimed the Swiss company paid kickbacks to pharmacies to boost sales of some of its prescription drugs. The company neither admitted nor denied