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Novartis wined and dined doctors at 80 000 “sham events” to increase prescribing, US alleges

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 31 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1861
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

The drug company Novartis is fighting a demand from US attorneys for thousands of documents detailing 80 000 events in which doctors allegedly received money and expensive meals as kickbacks for prescribing the company’s drugs and billing various public payers.

The government has claimed that, from 2002 until at least January 2011, thousands of meetings that Novartis described as speaker programs were really just paid entertainment for small groups of physicians, at which clinical issues were discussed only cursorily or not at all. Slide shows, which are mandated by company policy on speaker programs, often were not shown or were sharply curtailed.

“Novartis simply wined and dined the doctors at high end restaurants with astronomical costs, as well as in sports bars, on fishing trips, and at other venues not conducive to an educational program,” US attorneys alleged. Company and industry ethics rules limiting spending on meals were routinely violated, they said, and sales workers who broke the rules were never meaningfully punished and were often promoted.

The …

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