Product News and Recalls

Kickback scheme causes Novartis Pharmaceuticals to face lawsuit

State and federal prosecutors are pursuing a lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for paying kickbacks to BioScrip pharmacy. A story in The Wall Street Journal reports that Novartis incentivized BioScrip to recommend refills of its blood transfusion drug, Exjade.

In order to boost sales of Exjade, Novartis provided referrals and rebates to the specialty pharmacy. BioScrip encouraged refills for patients who may not have needed it in exchange for these kickbacks. Exjade is an iron-reduction drug that has potentially fatal side effects including kidney failure and gastrointestinal hemorrhaging. The kickback incentive caused BioScrip to heavily promote the drug to patients, sometimes neglecting possible safety concerns.

BioScrip has now agreed to pay $15 million to settle charges that it made false billing claims to Medicare and Medicaid. The New York Attorney General stated that, “this arrangement between Novartis and BioScrip was dangerous for patients and is against the law.” Novartis denied the kickback scheme allegations and claims that it will defend itself against litigation.

A statement by BioScrip stated that Novartis told the pharmacy that it would lose referrals if numbers of refills for Exjade did not rise. Novartis was recently involved in a similar lawsuit for providing kickbacks to over 20 pharmacies in order to increase sales for another drug, Myfortic, which is used by organ transplant patients.

The over-promotion of drugs can be harmful to patients who don’t need it, especially if the drug has serious potential side effects. Safety is often neglected when businesses focus on increasing sales. If you or a loved one suffered an injury as a result of such disregard of safety, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free initial consultation.