The Novartis case that recently emerged in Greece states that the pharmaceutical company bribed several high ranked government members of the country in order to raise the prices of their products, and therefore make more profit not only in Greece but worldwide since Greece was one of the countries of “special interest” for the company. For example, an increase of 10 cents in the price of a single product inside the country could mean an increase of up to 25 million Euro for the company.
Novartis is a healthcare company founded in 1996 in Basel, Switzerland that focuses on advanced treatment and research of cancer, neuroscience, immunology, dermatology, and ophthalmology among many others aspects. The company is currently one of the largest pharmaceutical companies by both market capitalization and sales on a world scale.
The Novartis case is based on the depositions of 3 protected witnesses, part of a larger number of witnesses, stating that the company bribed a total of 50.000.000€, starting from 2007 up to 2015. The payments were done either directly to the persons of interest with a suitcase, or via their coworkers. The whole case was unveiled by the FBI, seeing that Novartis was increasing the product prices without any legal background.
More specifically, 2 Prime Ministers of Greece, Antonis Samaras, and Panagioths Pikramenos, along with 8 ministers are said to have been bribed during this period. One of the witnesses states: “At the beginning of 2013, Frouzis (former vice president of Novartis) met the Prime Minister of Greece Antonis Samaras, during the Harvard Project programme. He had a black Samsonite roller bag with him, filled with bundles of purple, yellow and green color, which he delivered to Antonis Samaras. Mr. Frouzis car entered and parked inside Maximou Mansion.”
Andreas Loverdos, who served as Minister of Health from 2010 to 2012, is stated to have been bribed during the period for discriminatory treatment of the company, which resulted in his issuing of a price card for the exclusive pricing of two medicines (Gilenya and Tasigna 150), as well as not approving the Lucentis antagonistic drug. In the first case, according to the witness, Andreas Loverdos received at least 200.000€, while for the second case he received at least 70.000€.
Adonis Georgiadis, who served as Minister of Health from 2013 up to 2014, was also bribed and was using his book publishing company for his money laundering. During his time, he increased the prices of several Novartis products, introduced new more expensive products in the market, and assisted in the faster repayment of government debts towards Novartis.
The list goes on and on, but Novartis did not stop there. The FBI files state that the company also bribed doctors so that they would give more and more prescriptions for Novartis drugs. The company bribed them not only with money on hand but also with luxurious trips around the globe, under the guise of medical conferences. It is estimated that each doctor cost about 5.000€ during the trip, and they were tipped with an additional 2.000€ for their entertainment.
Another method the company used to bribe the doctors was through the collection of data for research purposes, that really intended the bribe of those who used more prescriptions of Novartis products. As is stated in the case-file, the company’s dealers informed doctors that they would get 500-1000 euros for a certain number of Novartis prescription drugs. The average paid to each doctor at one time was 500 euros. The reason was that EUR 1000 would be a very large and suspicious amount for a market survey. The prescription for each doctor was an average of 1.5 boxes.
The case is in progress and every day more evidence and testimonies arise. The people involved in the case deny all the accusations, but the future and possibly closure of the case is up to the current Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras and the courts of the country.