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South Korea Govt. Fines Novartis For Bribery

South Korea govt. fines Novartis for bribery
Building of Swiss drug maker Novartis
A Spokesperson for the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in South Korea on Thursday said the ministry levied a fine on 30 drug items and banned sale of 12 variations of three drug types, including Alzheimer’s drug Exelon for three months.

South Korea said it fined Swiss drug maker Novartis (NOVN.S) 200 million won (174,937 U.S. dollars) and temporarily banned the sale of some of its drugs for paying kickbacks to doctors in exchange for recommending the company’s drugs.

The sale ban will be effective from March 17 through June 16, the ministry’s website showed.

Novartis Korea said in a statement sent to Reuters that it “acknowledges and accepts’’ the government’s decision.

“We do not tolerate misconduct and are continuing to invest significant efforts to fully embed a culture of compliance throughout our Korean organisation,’’ it said.

In August 2016, six former and current Novartis employees in South Korea were indicted over illegal practices to boost sales of the company’s drugs.

They were charged with “indirectly” providing doctors with rebates through medical trade publications, a court spokesman said on Thursday, adding that six others from those publications were indicted as well.

For example, the prosecution alleged the Novartis officials had a medical publication hold a symposium for doctors and pay them “travel expenses’’ of up to 500,000 won 438 dollars each for participating in the event, the spokesperson said.

Novartis Korea, which at that time said it acknowledges and regrets the misconduct of certain associates, declined to comment on details of the charges, saying trials are under way.

Novartis faced numerous probes in several countries, including in the United States, where authorities or whistleblowers accused it of bribing doctors to boost sales of pharmaceuticals products.

In Novartis’s 2016 annual report, it said 1,701 misconduct cases were reported, involving the company’s employees, with 893 of them substantiated, adding that 400 of the cases resulted in dismissals or resignations.

(Reuters/NAN)

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