Novartis fined $50M for by Korean Ministry of Health


  Unethical marketing practices

Novartis fined $50M for by
Korean Ministry of Health

SEOUL: For more than a year, Novartis has been under investigation in Korea for allegedly bribing doctors to pump up sales. Now, the Swiss drug giant has to pay the price for its unethical marketing practices as the Korean authorities have decided to impose a fine of nearly $50 million. According to reports Korea’s Ministry of Health & Welfare (MHW) has fined Novartis 55 billion Korean won, approximately $50 million, and suspended reimbursement of Exelon and Zometa. The final decision is expected by the end of May.

It is further learnt that the  authorities were also  weighing a suspension of the company’s big-selling cancer med Glivec, but according to  The Korea Times fearing that  the  move would leave some 3,000 to 5,000 chronic myeloid leukemia patients with no other options, the decision has been withheld.

Responding to the Korean decision, a spokesperson from Novartis is reported to have said that “As previously stated, we regret that certain associates in Korea conducted small medical meetings and other scientific related activities through trade journals, in violation of our policies and inconsistent with our culture and the expectations society has for us and our industry,”.The company’s “commitment to bringing life-changing medicines to patients in Korea remains unchanged,” He hoped that the  Korean authorities won’t force lower prices on Novartis drugs  as part of the punishment.

The move follows separate punitive action by Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, which issued a small fine and a 3-month suspension on three Novartis drugs  earlier this year. At the time, an MHW spokesperson said government officials were weighing “tougher” measures. "We will continue to try hard to root out such practices in the pharmaceutical industry with strong measures," officials said in a new MHW statement, according to The Korea Times.

It may be mentioned here that last  year, prosecutors in Korea raided Novartis offices to gather documents and account books. South Korean officials later indicted a half-dozen Novartis Executives as well as more than a dozen doctors and five medical journal heads.The authorities contend that the company’s employees provided approximately $2.3 million in unlawful kickbacks. The Korea Times says the criminal trial is now underway.

Outside of Korea, Novartis faces separate bribery claims in Greece, where an official earlier this month said “thousands” of people could be implicated. In response, a Novartis spokesperson pointed out that Greek authorities only contacted the company through two visits, and that Novartis hasn’t received "any form of indictment or subpoena." Novartis also faces  allegations in Turkey, which it now considers “unsubstantiated,” and paid $25 million to U.S. authorities last year to settle a bribery investigation in China.

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