Novartis escapes one set of kickback allegations, but federal charges roll on

Novartis' Gilenya won't face generics challengers until 2027 after a U.S. patent office ruling. (Novartis)

Novartis is no stranger to ethics allegations and scandals, including federal charges that it used lavish dinners and trips to induce docs to prescribe its drugs. But in a separate kickback suit with multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya at the center, Novartis has won a reprieve.

A New York district judge on Tuesday dismissed a 2013 whistleblower suit alleging Novartis paid doctor kickbacks for MS med Gilenya due to a lack of "detailed allegations and representative examples," according to a court filing. 

The lawsuit, originally filed by former Novartis sales rep Stephen Camburn, had the backing of federal prosecutors and at least 28 state attorneys general. 

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The suit alleged Novartis used a "sham" speaker series to funnel money into doctors' pockets to boost subscriptions of Gilenya. However, Camburn's complaints didn't establish enough evidence to support a violation of the False Claims Act, Judge Kimba Wood wrote in her opinion. 

"The fact that some speaker events went over-budget, and that Novartis salespeople concealed the excess spending in Novartis’ internal records, is not enough to allege a kickback scheme orchestrated by Novartis," Wood wrote. "(The suit) makes no allegations about why sales personnel concealed the excessive spending, whether they were instructed to do so, who the falsification was meant to deceive, or what role the falsification played in the alleged kickback scheme."

RELATED: FDA greenlights generics of Novartis' $3B MS star Gilenya amid legal fight

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