If you had any question about the underhanded strategies and motivations of drug companies, look no further. Novartis, a billion dollar drug Swiss company is being sued by the US government for paying millions in kickbacks to doctors for prescribing their drugs.
Accepted Industry Practice
For the past decade this company has lavished doctors with exorbitant speakers fees and extravagant meals in order to induce them to prescribe their drugs, in the guise of educational programs and accepted industry practice.
This involves Medicare and Medicaid payments of millions of dollars in kickback-tainted claims for commonly used drugs for hypertension and diabetes.
Is there any motivation here for doctors to talk to their patients about dietary changes when it is so easy to add to their income in this way?
In January of 2011, a former employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. The US government has now joined this lawsuit because of the impact this has on Medicare and Medicaid, two government run programs.
Beyond Commonly Used Drugs
The company is also accused of inducing pharmacies to switch thousands of kidney transplant patients to its immunosuppressant drug Myfortic in exchange for kickbacks disguised as rebates and discounts.
Novartis spokesperson, Julie Masow said the company disputes the claims in both lawsuits. She also said physician speaker programs are an accepted and customary practice in the industry.
Oh, so, paying doctors excessive fees to speak is usual and customary?
Providing elaborate and expensive dinners to doctors and their staff is usual and customary?
Does that make it OK?
Really Expensive Meals
The complaint alleges use of improper programs, including seven at Hooters restaurants that Novartis sales representatives attended. I guess none of the doctors invited were women…
Additionally, there were dinners at high-end Chicago restaurants such as Japonais and L20, a $2,016 dinner for three at Smith & Wollensky in Washington, D.C. and a $9,750 dinner for three at Nobu in Dallas in December 2005.
I mean, really… think of all the grassfed beef that would buy.
No Wonder Doctors are Not Interested in Diet
Not only are medical doctors not taught anything about nutrition in medical schools, they are clearly steered into writing prescriptions in the 5 minutes they allow with a patient.
What with managed care and the limitations put on doctors by insurance companies (which I sympathize with), the income of a doctor has gone down dramatically.
I don’t know who to blame. The whole system stinks.
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!