[Ip-health] Novartis Offices are Raided by Italian Authorities Over Vaccine Pricing

Elizabeth Rajasingh elizabeth.rajasingh at keionline.org
Fri Jun 20 12:27:05 PDT 2014


Novartis Offices are Raided by Italian Authorities Over Vaccine Pricing
By: ED
​ ​

For the second time over the past year, Italian authorities are
investigating Novartis
<http://online.wsj.com/public/quotes/main.html?type=djn&symbol=NOVN.VX> over
allegations of wrongdoing.

In the latest episode, police raided two plants – in Siena and Origgio – in
connection with suspected fraud committed against the Italian health
ministry. Prosecutors believe Novartis cheated the government out of $3.6
million in 2012 by inflating the price of a component of its flu vaccine,
and Francesco Gulli, who heads the Novartis vaccines unit in Italy, is
under investigation, Gazetta del Sud, an Italian newspaper.

A vaccination campaign to immunize up to 40% of Italy’s 60 million people
began in November 2009 after six deaths related to swine flu were reported.
The health ministry suspended supplies the following year after the swine
flu emergency abated, the paper writes, adding that the probe is connected
to yet another investigation involving suspected tax fraud at the drug

A Novartis spokesman sent Pharmalot a statement saying the drug maker is
aware of the raid and is cooperating with authorities, but is committed to
high ethical standards. The drug maker says that the agreement for the flu
vaccine with the Italian health ministry was “equitable” for “all parties
involved,” and “stands behind the terms.” The statement adds that
“procurement for all seasonal influenza vaccines is through transparent and
competitive” bidding procedures.

Earlier this month, authorities searched the offices of the Italian
Medicines Agency, known as Aifa, as part of a criminal probe into Novartis
and Roche for alleged market manipulation and collusion. The drug makers
are suspected of collusion in order to hamper use of one eye medication in
favor of a more expensive one. The drug makers jointly market both

The Italian regulator had agreed to reimburse patients who are given the
Avastin cancer drug to treat age-related macular degeneration, a common
disease among the elderly that can cause blindness. Avastin is not approved
for this use, but costs significantly less than Lucentis, which is approved
for this purpose. Antitrust authorities, which are seeking $1.6 million in
fines from the drug makers, say the episode cost the Italian national
health service more than $61 million in 2012, according to the paper.

Italy is not the only locale where Novartis is under government scrutiny
and generating scandalous headlines. In Japan, the drug maker is being
investigated over its clinical research practices – alleged instances of
fraudulent studies and failing to report thousands of patient side effects.
And in the U.S., the Department of Justice last year filed lawsuits
alleging Novartis paid kickbacks to boost prescriptions and caused federal
health care programs to pay for medicines based on false claims.
Elizabeth Rajasingh
Perl Fellow, Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009
*elizabeth.rajasingh at keionline.org <elizabeth.rajasingh at keionline.org>* |

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