Novartis ousts top Japanese execs amid fresh misconduct allegations

Novartis Pharma Chief David Epstein

Novartis has cracked down on its Japanese management. The Swiss drugmaker ($NVS) pushed out its top three executives Thursday, after a scathing report from a panel investigating misconduct in a leukemia drug trial.

"[T]hey are out of the company," Novartis Pharma chief David Epstein said during a news briefing.

The panel's report said that Novartis sales reps and other employees were closely involved in a study comparing the side effects of leukemia drugs, including its own Tasigna, a follow-up to the breakthrough treatment Gleevec. And when misconduct allegations surfaced, many of them shredded documents and deleted computer files to cover their tracks, the investigators found.

At today's briefing Epstein publicly apologized--again--for his employees' missteps. "[T]his kind of behavior is unacceptable and a clear violation of our code of conduct," he said (as quoted by AFP).

Novartis has brought in foreign managers to take over the Japanese office. Replacing Hiroko Ishikawa at the helm will be a British executive, Michael Ferris. A German, Dirk Kosche, will take the place of Yoshiyasu Ninomiya at the top of the Japanese pharma business. And Francis Bouchard, a Canadian, will run its oncology business, replacing Kazuo Asakawa.

It's the latest development in a months-long scandal. Since last summer, Novartis has been under fire for employee involvement in a now-retracted study of its blood pressure drug Diovan. Last month, Japanese regulators filed a criminal complaint against the company and top managers under false-advertising law, alleging that Novartis used misleading data to promote the drug.

In addition to dispensing with the top managers, Novartis says it will take action against employees directly involved in the leukemia-trial misconduct.

- get the news from AFP

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