Novartis, the big pharma company, has agreed to pay US$390m in a settlement with the US Department of Justice over what the DoJ alleged were kickbacks paid to US specialty pharmacies for encouraging patients to refill their prescriptions with Novartis’s Medicaid and Medicare products. Payments had been made by Novartis between 2007 and 2012.

The US Government and 40 States claim this was to encourage pharmacists effectively to act as its sales force rather than disinterested intermediaries. They allege that Novartis encouraged the downplaying of serious side effects and scored pharmacies for how effective they were.

Novartis disputes the prosecutors’ position and said the payments were made to ensure patients took the drugs. The Swiss pharma giant has stated that it neither admits nor denies liability and continues to believe that specialty pharmacies play a key role in patient adherence and support.

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