In a 90-page opinion today, Judge Gardephe largely denied Novartis’ motion to dismiss a government suit alleging that it paid doctors kickbacks by hosting sham speaker events that allegedly “served as little more than upscale social outings designed to induce doctors to write prescriptions for Novartis drugs.” He rejected Novartis’ argument that the complaint lacked sufficient detail under Rule 9(b):
Here, the alleged kickback scheme took place over nine years and involved thousands of sham speaker events that took place nationwide. To require Plaintiffs to plead the details of everyone of those events or everyone of the doctors who was a speaker or attendee at those events would be “’cumbersome, unwieldy, and would accomplish no purpose.” The doctors identified in the Amended Complaint and in the New York Complaint were either attendees or speakers at lavish Novartis speaker events for Novartis’s cardiovascular division drugs. At these events, no substantive presentation or discussion about Novartis drugs took place, but the doctors who were “speakers” were nonetheless compensated, while the same attendees repeatedly appeared at the same sham programs. During the time period that these doctors were being paid as “speakers” and/or enjoying lavish dinners, they wrote more prescriptions for Novartis’s cardiovascular division drugs. The drugs referenced in these prescriptions later became the subject of claims for reimbursement that were submitted to federal and New York healthcare programs. This Court concludes that the examples provided in the Government Entities’ complaints of the doctors who were “speakers” for or attended sham speaker events are sufficiently representative of the widespread kickback scheme to satisfy the requirements of Rule 9(b).
As we reported in May, Judge McMahon denied Novartis’ motion to dismiss a similar suit accusing Novartis of paying improper “rebates” to pharmacies.