Novartis found no merit in Turkish allegations, but official claims probe is 'ongoing': Reuters

Last week, Novartis said it had turned up no rule-breaking in an investigation of potentially improper payments in Turkey. The company said it wasn’t aware of any government probe, either.

An official in Ankara is now telling Reuters that the investigation remains “ongoing.”

In April, a Turkish prosecutor reportedly opened an investigation after receiving a whistleblower email originally sent to Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez and a company board member. The letter claimed Novartis’ local unit had paid consultants $290,000 in 2013 and 2014 to win about $85 million in business from government hospitals.

The Swiss drugmaker told Reuters via email last week that it considered the case closed. The allegations had long ago been vetted and discredited, Novartis told the news service.

"Based on thorough internal and external counsel investigations we have concluded that all recent publicly and anonymously reported allegations relating to Novartis Turkey are unsubstantiated. We now consider this matter closed," the company said.

An official in Turkey’s health ministry told the news service Wednesday that the Novartis investigation is “ongoing,” but wouldn’t offer any details. Given that the original investigation had been launched by the chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara, it’s unclear whether the ministry official was talking about a different probe, or a continuation of the prosecutor’s digging--or whether the official was up-to-date on the prosecutor’s action.

Earlier this year, Novartis said it had dug into the accusations about improper payments--allegedly routed through a consulting firm--and found no evidence to support them. At the time, it turned over its findings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Turkish authorities, Novartis said.

"In 2013, we initiated an internal investigation which concluded in 2014 that the allegations were unsubstantiated," the company said in April. "In 2014, the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Labor and Social Security conducted its own enquiry into the allegations. Novartis co-operated fully with the Turkish authorities in that investigation, which concluded that all allegations were unsubstantiated and no action was taken by the Ministry.”

Last week, a half-dozen Novartis executives in South Korea--including the local chief, who was on suspension--were indicted for allegedly paying rebates to doctors in return for favorable treatment. The prosecutors’ office says it is considering action against the company.

- read the Reuters news

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