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updated: 4/24/2013 7:17 AM

NY lawsuit accuses Novartis of health care fraud

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Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The U.S. government has sued Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. in New York, claiming it gave kickbacks to pharmacies to switch transplant patients from competitors' drugs to its own.

The civil health care fraud lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan. It seeks unspecified damages and civil penalties.

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U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says the company used the "lure of kickbacks disguised as rebates" to turn certain pharmacists into salespeople for one of its drugs. He says the company's actions caused the public to pay tens of millions of dollars for kickback-tainted drugs dispensed by pharmacists who had buddied up to it.

Bharara says Novartis is a repeat offender, having settled fraud charges based on kickbacks less than three years ago.

Novartis says it disputes the claims and will defend itself.

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