According to the Department of Justice, New Jersey-based Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation has been sued by the United States a second time for allegedly paying kickbacks to health care providers in return for prescribing Novartis drugs that were reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE. In September 2010, Novartis settled a similar suit regarding its drugs Trileptal, Diovan, Zelnorm, Sandostatin, Tekturna, and Exforge.
The Complaint filed by the U.S. in the Southern District of New York alleges that the company induced physicians to prescribe its hypertension drugs, Lotrel and Valturna, and its diabetes drug, Starlix, in exchange for illegal kickbacks in the form of fishing trips, lavish dinners and payments to doctors as “honoraria” for speaking. According to the Complaint, the speaking programs were little more than social occasions for the doctors, including several that were held at Hooters restaurants, and others that either did not occur or had few or no attendees.
The allegations were first made by whistleblower Oswald Bilotta, a former Novartis sales representative, under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. If the government is successful in recovering any funds from Novartis, the whistleblower may be entitled to a portion of the proceeds as his reward in accordance with the qui tam provisions.