More Trouble in Italy for Novartis


Europe’s biggest drug maker has found themselves under investigation by the Italian police for fraud in relation to their influenza vaccines.

Novartis’ plants in Siena and Origgio were searched last week by police looking for information relating to the pricing of two flu vaccines that the dug giant had sold to the Italian Health Ministry. One of the vaccines was for the 1009 flu pandemic.

The accusations against Novaritis suggest that by inflating the price of a key vaccine component (MF59) by 600%, the Swiss drug makers is said to have defrauded the Italian Health Ministry for more than $22 million. Much of the vaccine sales concerning the Italian authorities came in 2009 during the swine flue pandemic, during which the Italian government pushed to vaccinate 40% of its population.

Novartis will no doubt be hoping that these accusations will not harm their attempts to sell off their flu vaccines business in the next few years, after having already sold most of its vaccine arm to rival GSK earlier this year.

but the sale of their flu vaccines wing could well be the least of Novartis’ worries. Earlier this month the offices of the Italian Medicines Agency were raided in connection to allegations of market manipulation and collusion by Novatis and Roche. On top of this Novartis are also being investigated in Japan over claims by Japanese authorities of fraudulent studies from Novartis, and a failure to report thousands of patient side effects.

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