In one of the largest potential whistleblower settlements[1. http://taf.org/blog/costly-kickbacks-novartis-potentially-faces-3-billion-fines] to date, drug maker Novartis is facing a staggering $3.35 billion in fines and penalties from the Department of Justice over two of its best-selling prescription medications: Exjade and a treatment for kidney transplant patients.
In a separate concurrent whistleblower lawsuit against the “repeat offender,” a whistleblower has alleged that the company wrongfully promoted two high-potency cancer drugs known to cause severe side effects.
Overall, the company is looking at a historic penalty and possible exclusion from all further participation in federal and state healthcare insurance programs.
Details of the Novartis Cancer Drug Lawsuit
In one lawsuit against Novartis, a former account manager for the drug giant alleged that the company had struck secret deals with a number of pharmacies around the United States. Pursuant to these deals, pharmacies would be offered discounts and referrals in an amount directly correlated to their amount of sales of the specific drugs.
This push resulted in a move by pharmacies to promote the prescription of the cancer drugs Gleevec and Tasigna over alternative treatments, despite complaints from patients as to the extreme adverse side effects. Moreover, physicians and hospitals also raised concerns regarding the cost of the drugs, which were apparently much higher than other similar prescription medications.
Novartis Exjade & Myfortic Treatment Lawsuit
In a second concurrent lawsuit against Novartis, the company is alleged to have engaged in similar kickback and rebate programs with pharmacies[2. http://blogs.wsj.com/pharmalot/2015/06/30/how-much-feds-wants-novartis-to-pay-3-35b-for-kickback-schemes/] in order to boost sales and increase profits.
Exjade is a drug used to treat iron deficiency in patients enduring blood transfusions, while the Myfortic treatment is used to treat kidney transplant patients immediately following surgery.
Allegedly, the company offered lucrative incentives and discounts to pharmacies, while failing to pass on the savings to Medicare and Medicaid on behalf of covered patients. This resulted in inflated costs for the federal and state governments tasked with paying for these programs – which are ultimately charged to taxpayers.
Also included in the litigation against Novartis is the allegation that the company offered kickbacks and compensation to physicians for “speaking engagements” covering these drugs, which amounted to nothing more than lavish trips and incentives that did not involve actual discussion of the drugs or their use to treat patients.
In response to the claims, and pursuant to a pre-trial order, Novartis is facing $3.3 billion in damages and civil fines, which is one of the highest False Claims Act penalties ever entered against a single defendant.
Contact a Whistleblower Attorney Today
If you are aware of possible fraud involving prescription medication or healthcare in general, we encourage you to contact a confidential whistleblower attorney at Berger Montague today. Our attorneys offer confidential consultation of your claim, and can help you file a potentially lucrative False Claims Act lawsuit in some cases.