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Uncle Sam Busts Novartis Again

MANHATTAN (CN) - The United States - this time joined by 27 states - filed a second False Claims Act complaint against Novartis, accusing it of paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its drugs to Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Uncle Sam sued Novartis last week for paying kickbacks to pharmacies to switch transplant patients to its Myfortic drug, instead of cheaper generics.

This time the government accuses the drug company of paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its cardiovascular drugs Lotral and Valturna and its diabetes drug Starlix.

Novartis also paid doctors to recommend the drugs to other doctors in speeches "that were often little or nothing more than social occasions for the doctors," for which Novartis also paid. "The payments to the doctors, and the dinners, were kickbacks to the speakers and the attendees to induce them to write prescriptions for Novartis drugs," prosecutors say in the 179-page federal complaint.

It seeks treble damages for False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations.

Suing along with the federal government and 27 states are the District of Columbia, and the cities of New York and Chicago.

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