Business, Economics and Jobs

Novartis took doctors to Hooters, lawsuit says


Indian people infected with HIV and activists hold placards and shout slogans against Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis during a demonstration in New Delhi, 29 January 2007. In recent days, India has proposed offering free generic drugs to patients who seek help at government health facilities.

Have you ever received a prescription that you didn't think you needed for some hardcore Novartis drugs? Bad news: your doctor may have sold you out for a Hooters waitress and some crispy chicken wings. 

Novartis plied physicians with dinners, speaker fees, fishing trips and outings at Hooters restaurants to get them to prescribe patients more Novartis drugs, the US government alleges. The US made the claims in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court.

More from GlobalPost:  Big Pharma freaks over India's plan to cap drug prices

“Novartis corrupted the prescription drug dispensing process with multimillion-dollar ‘incentive programs’ that targeted doctors who, in exchange for illegal kickbacks, steered patients toward its drugs,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara  said in a statement to reporters

The charges were first made by a former Novartis employee turned whistle-blower. The whistle-blower filed the lawsuit in 2011,  the New York Times reported, but the federal government has only recently joined it.

In an email, Novartis  told the Wall Street Journal  that physician speaker programs are an "accepted and customary practice in the industry," which will probably not improve your faith in the drug industry or your doctor.