Being a multi-billion international Pharmaceutical giant does not protect you from the Law…and in my best American accent “Justice WILL be served” (and bang! goes the gavel). Novartis gets called out on their dodgy sales boosting techniques again down the US Federal court.
Novartis has been caught out serving Pharmacists and Doctors under the table deal ‘sweetners’ – which is essentially an indirect form of bribery born out of the fierce competition in pharmaceutical sales. Despite heavy regulatory controls preventing direct methods of handing over cash, pharmas have found another way to convince medical professionals that their product is recommended ahead of others in the patient setting.
It’s all a little foggy as to what is or is not breaking these rules, and this grey area is now the only ‘loophole’ large Pharmas can still sneakily try to push their brand. For example, although no money was directly exchanged, Reuters indicated being taken out for $9,700 swanky Japanese restaurants by a client (who conveniently foots the extortionate bill) is definitely still an unethical form of sales! This particular claim will be taken to trial in 2016.
A interesting article by the BBC discusses other such strategies employed by drug reps to push their brand (particularly during the 1990’s when the regulation hadn’t caught up with pharmas like Pfizer – as in the film Love and Other Drugs), along with the wave of legislative change after pharma whisteblowers meant better controls were introduced.
The US Department of Justice is having none of it, already calling Novartis out on their act back in 2010…who eventually settled for a $422M fine in Federal Court. Now, the latest fine is in conjunction with the ‘illegal’ pushing of their iron-reducing Exjade and immuno-suppressant Myfortic, which the US court was originally suing them for $3.35Bn.
The latest development means instead Novartis will this time settle on $390M, avoiding any further embarrassment. Indeed, CEO Joe Jimenez commented:
It’s something we just believe we want to put behind us“
The already fierce competition is growing even hotter on the drug market, particularly with the rise of biosimilars now cluttering up the pharma-sphere (e.g. ironically the first US one being by Novartis).
Nonetheless, the US attorneys are determined to make an example of Novartis, affirming this competition is not an excuse for bending the rules.