Swiss drug giant Novartis bribed government-run hospitals in Turkey to increase prescriptions of it drugs – a scheme that gave the multinational company a market advantage worth $85 million, an anonymous whistleblower alleges.
According to Reuters, the unnamed whistleblower made the allegations in a 5,000-word email to Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez and audit and compliance board member Srikant Datar.
The whistleblower claims Novartis paid the Turkish firm Alp Aydin Consultancy nearly $300,000 in 2013 and 2014 to persuade Turkish health officials to add Novartis drugs to the formularies in government-run hospitals.
Novartis also hired the relatives of high-prescribing doctors into its Turkish operations, the whistleblower alleged in the letter, Reuters reported.
Using bribes, Alp Aydin successfully persuaded Turkish hospitals to adopt Novartis drugs for multiple sclerosis, respiratory disease, and juvenile arthritis, the whistleblower’s email stated. Adding these prescription drugs to its list of government-approved medications made Novartis $20 million.
Novartis stopped using Alp Aydin’s services when Turkey’s Social Security Institution opened an investigation into its business practices.
The Reuters report comes just one week after Novartis agreed to pay the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) more than $25 million to settle similar allegations of bribery in China. Novartis is also under investigation in South Korea, where last month its offices were raided by authorities seeking to substantiate claims that it offered doctors cash rebates and other illegal kickbacks for prescribing Novartis drugs.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that Novartis paid five Australian oncologists to attend a lavish four-day cancer conference in Vienna, Austria, with expenses for two weeks of accommodations totaling about $25,000 U.S.
Novartis also has a long rap sheet in the U.S. for similar kickbacks and bribes. In February, the Swiss drug maker agreed to pay the U.S. government $60 million to resolve its part of a False Claims Act lawsuit filed by a former Novartis sales representative turned whistleblower.
David Kester, the whistleblower who exposed an extensive scheme between Novartis and other health care providers, has earned more than $15 million in awards from settlements between the U.S. and Novartis to date. Total settlements arising from Mr. Kester’s complaint against Novartis could top $400 million when they are complete.