The Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis has been accused by the U.S. government of a kickback scheme involving paying doctors millions in kickbacks to promote and prescribe their drugs.The drugs involved in this case including Lotrel and Valturna, which treat hypertension, as well as Starlix for diabetes. The kickbacks to the docs also included what was considered a speaking fee, where doctors would be paid to discuss the drugs at educational events and even within their own office. The doctors were also treated to meals that can be considered lavish at the price point of $9,750 for three dinners at a Japanese restaurant.
Unlike a straightforward bribe, kickbacks involve an action being completed after negotiated bribery in the form of a commission or rebate. It is generally viewed as illegal since it gives many companies an unfair advantage in the industry they work for. The False Claims Act is what pushes liability for such actions onto those who attempt to defraud governmental programs such as health insurance.
The Novartis case started in 2011, when a former sale representative, Oswald Bilotta, filed a whistleblower lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. This type of action allows individuals who have discovered criminal action or intent to come forward on behalf of the government. When a case such as this is filed, the government does hold the right to get involved whenever they deem necessary. In the case of Novartis, Bilotta made the principal claim in 2011 followed by the U.S. government and state of New York intervening in 2013.