Greece files $224 million lawsuit against Novartis for bribery scandal

Greece is seeking 214 million euros ($224 million) in damages from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis over a long-running alleged bribery scandal affecting market share and medicine prices, its health minister said Friday.

Minister Thanos Plevris in a statement said the claim was over the “moral damage sustained by the Greek state from actions the company has already confessed in the United States concerning bribes paid to doctors”.

He said that additional claims by Greece were possible, adding: “All (available) sanctions will be applied against Novartis over its illegal practices.”

The Swiss pharmaceutical giant is suspected of having bribed Greek decision-makers and doctors between 2006 and 2015 to secure inflated prices for its products even though cheaper alternatives were available.

A significant share of the Novartis investigation has taken place in the United States, where the company in 2020 agreed to pay around $336 million to settle charges connected to bribery schemes aimed at increasing sales of its pharmaceutical products.

At the time, the US Justice Department said Novartis’s Greek subsidiary had admitted paying kickbacks from 2012 to 2015 to employees of public hospitals to boost sales of its products.

The alleged result was a commanding position for Novartis in the Greek healthcare market, allowing it to inflate its prices even as Greece was in the grip of a protracted financial crisis.

Greek officials have estimated that the scheme cost the state around three billion euros in inflated prices.

The case sparked a political storm in Greece after protected witnesses initially testified that a number of senior Greek politicians and officials were allegedly involved in helping Novartis build a commanding position in the Greek health market.

But investigating magistrates have so far failed to find enough incriminating evidence to formally press charges. — Agence France-Presse