Consumer Fraud

Novartis seeks more time in whistleblower case

whistleblower Novartis seeks more time in whistleblower caseDrug giant Novartis told a New York federal judge that it needs more time in a whistleblower case. The company said the deadline proposed by a whistleblower seeking the release of the company’s privilege log and other documents as part of a False Claims Act lawsuit is not feasible.

“That simply is not a feasible deadline,” Novartis said in a memorandum for opposition. The drug maker also said that throwing documents together in haste would force it “to make important privilege determinations” with prejudice, Law360 reported.

Former Novartis employee David Kester filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the drug maker under the False Claims Act, which authorizes private individuals to sue on behalf of the federal government in an effort to recover federal funds and share a percentage of any recovery.

Mr. Kester alleges Novartis engaged in a kickback scheme with CVS Caremark and other pharmacies designed to boost sales of Exjade, an iron reduction drug, and Myfortic, an organ transplant drug. In return for pushing those drugs, the pharmacies received kickbacks from Novartis in the form of patient referrals and disguised cash rewards, Mr. Kester’s complaint alleges.

On Feb. 17, Mr. Kester’s lawyers filed a motion to compel, telling the court that Novartis had redacted some documents essential to the case and remained non-responsive on others. Mr. Kester also asked the court to review Novartis’ privilege log recording all the documents withheld from discovery, calling it “woefully deficient” because it excludes numerous documents. He said “Novartis bears the burden of proving that every element is met.”

Mr. Kester asked that Novartis turn over all the requested documents today, Friday, Feb. 27 – a deadline that Novartis is challenging, arguing that it would have to hire 40 additional lawyers to work around the clock to meet that deadline.

“Novartis has no objection (nor could it) to producing a log for documents responsive to the government’s requests that it withheld on privilege grounds,” Mr. Kester’s memo said. “It merely seeks a reasonable time in which to comply with its obligation, and the schedule that relator has proposed is not that.”

Source: Law 360