Former Novartis execs cleared of Greek bribery charges after yearslong investigation

After a yearslong investigation involving politicians and medical professionals alike, Novartis is looking to close the books on its Greek bribery imbroglio.

The probe into allegations that the company paid kickbacks between 2006 to 2015 has culminated in Greece’s Council of Misdemeanor Courts clearing four former Novartis executives and a former politician of bribery charges, Greece's Kathimerini reports.

Former Novartis Greece Vice President Konstantinos Frouzis, alongside three other Novartis execs and former Health Ministry adviser Nikos Maniadakis, couldn’t be charged of bribing nonpolitical individuals due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, according to the publication.

Ten other politicians were investigated, but no evidence was found to prove passive bribery, according to Kathimerini.

Meanwhile, 15 doctors who allegedly received financial benefits for prescribing Novartis drugs have been charged for passive bribery and money laundering, according to the publication.

Novartis did not immediately reply to Fierce Pharma's request for comment. 

The developments come after Novartis in 2020 forked over $345 million to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle foreign bribery claims in multiple countries, including Greece.

In that settlement, the company admitted that it bribed healthcare providers using medical events and an academic study in order to boost drug prescriptions, including for wet age-related macular degeneration med Lucentis. The kickbacks were paid between 2000 and 2010 as well as between 2012 and 2015, according to federal officials.

In Greece, the bribery investigation kicked off in early 2017 with a raid of Novartis’ Greek offices. Greece's then-Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis ordered the probe after "denunciations concerning bribes paid to functionaries by Novartis" appeared in the press, the ministry said in a statement at the time.

For several years in the 2010s, Novartis faced allegations of bribery in multiple countries. In 2020, the company paid $729 million to officials in the U.S. to settle claims that it offered kickbacks to doctors and illegal copay support to Medicare patients to boost sales. It separately settled a price-fixing case that year, bringing the total of the deals to almost $1.3 billion by midyear.

At the time, CEO Vas Narasimhan called the settlements “an important milestone on our journey to build trust with society."