Greece’s Justice Minister Stavors Kontonis sent to Supreme Court prosecutor media reports according to which a big pharma company bribed doctors and public officials in order to boost prescriptions and the companies sales. The prosecutor should investigate media reports that two executives of Novartis in Greece had told US authorities that “the company used unfair methods to improve the company’s position in the Greek market for many years.”
The case was revealed by news website iefimerida.gr on December 12th 2016. According to the website, the two executives had given the relevant testimony to the US Securities and Exchange Commission investigating the pharma company last August.
“The two former employees – their identities are available to iefimerida.gr – are currently in the USA in order to testify at the Commission.
The two executives are Greek citizens who worked at Novartis since 2008, the one chief of communication and corporate responsibility, the other as sales manager.
Due to their positions, the two former employees had access to knowledge and proof about bribes of public officials and doctors by the company in order to get decisions in favor of the company and prescribe the company’s drugs.
The two “whistleblowers” have submitted hundreds of documents showing money payments to private doctors, but mainly to doctors working in the public sector or in the health insurance system. Also they submitted names of companies through which the company laundered money.
The US Justice is called to investigate illegal payments to officials, failure of the company’s internal controls to detect illegal payments, payments to IKA [social security fund for private sector employees] doctors and hospitals in Greece, as well as payments to mass media so that they criticize politicians whose decisions were not in favor of the company.
According to iefimerida.gr, Novartis commented on the report in a short notice of 16 words.
“We have taken note of the publication and we are in search of further evidence. We do not comment on unsubstantiated information.”
Last October Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez had told media that Novartis can’t guarantee to eradicate wrong-doing entirely.
«It’s a combination for us of hiring the right people, training them when they get here, and thirdly, you need the ability to identify it and wipe it out as soon as you see it,» Jimenez said.
The company has 35,000 sales and marketing representatives around the world.
PS I remember to see several of them standing line in the corridors of IKA when I’d go there for my mom’s prescription medicine. The rate was usual 1-2 patients: 4-5 Novartis’ representatives – for a popular drug for a specific illness- awaiting outside the doctor’s door. The rude representatives, young men and women in black and white suits, would normally push aside the patients who had an appointment and enter the office claiming they had other clients waiting.