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Novartis meets key meeting in US bribery scandal



(Reuters) Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis, fresh from solving US allegations over alleged kickbacks to doctors, is preparing for a key meeting next week with US prosecutors that could lead to the resolution of a decade-old bribery .

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a $ 346 million agreement from Novartis to resolve US criminal and civil charges such as the bribed doctors, hospitals and clinics in Greece and Vietnam.

While Novartis said the package resolves all of its pending cases of foreign corruption practice, another, potentially larger payment is underway: A decade-old whistleblower case in which the US government accuses it of paying millions in doctor's returns to prescribe their drugs.

A Novartis spokesman declined comment on a possible solution and its meeting with US prosecutors.

United States District Court Judge Paul Gardephe has ordered a July 2 conference in that case for both attorneys and the public, which would be the first court-ordered meeting in the case since mid-201

9 when the two sides discussed a settlement. Novartis has set aside $ 700 million.

Novarti's agreement this week gives out in alleged corruption cases to about $ 1 billion over the past decade and is a reminder of the Basel-based drug manufacturer's struggle to leave an era when it regularly messes with prosecutors over its salespeople behavior.

"This is not good for the company's momentum," said Michael Nawrath, an analyst with Zdoorer Cantonalbank who rates Novartis shares as "overweight." “Novartis is often the one to handle such violations. We will see to what extent Novartis will be free from future violations. ”

Novartis shares fell by 0.13%, the worst performing benchmark on the Swiss benchmark index, with almost all other companies and the broader European Health Care index being positive.

During his 2 1/2 year term, Novartis President Vas Narasimhan has had to contend with what he has called "legacy" ethical issues, including the fallout from hiring US President Donald Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen as a consultant and US generics pricing, resulting in a $ 195 million settlement in March.


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