In the second US lawsuit against the Swiss firm this week, the Justice Department said its US unit Novartis Pharmaceuticals had boosted sales of its more expensive brand-name drugs by offering incentives to prescribing doctors that were ultimately paid for by public health care programs.
The lawsuit, filed in the US district court in New York, alleged that, to promote Novartis drugs like Lotrel and Valturna, used for hypertension, and Starlix, for diabetes, the company paid doctors to make speeches at what were only "social occasions" and put on lavish dinners for the doctors.
Such actions "were, in reality, kickbacks to the speakers and attendees to induce them to write prescriptions for Novartis drugs," the department said.
The payments violated the US Anti-Kickback Statute and led to the government paying "false claims" via its health-care programs for Novartis pharmaceutical products.
On Tuesday the government filed suit against Novartis for paying kickbacks to pharmacies to substitute its drug Myfortic for cheaper generic drugs used to help transplant patients.