Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) is finding itself embroiled in a legal battle that alleges the company was engaged in a kickback scheme with BioScrip, a pharmacy.

“We have laws on the books to prevent companies from engaging in this behavior,” commented James Kauffman, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of bad drug and anti-kickback litigation. “It exists to protect patients from potentially corrupted reasoning on the part of their health care providers. No health care provider should put its own financial benefit before the wellbeing of a patient. Accepting payment to prefer one treatment over another runs too great a risk of exactly that bias.”

Too often, when a health care provider has a potential for financial gain, health care providers fail to warn patients of the risks associated with a product or procedure. In this case, the company is accused of ignoring the potential side-effects of its blood transfusion drug and iron-reduction drug Exjade. Novartis is accused of having inflated its sales by providing referrals and rebates to BioScrip. According to the Washington Post, BioScrip would then resist informing patients of potentially fatal side effects associated with the drug: kidney failure and gastrointestinal hemorrhaging.

The relationship between BioScrip and Novartis also ran afoul of False Claims Act laws. BioScrip has agreed to pay $15 million to settle allegations that it caused pharmacies to submit thousands of false claims to Medicare and Medicaid.

“False claims for payment are a problem the government is constantly combating,” Mr. Kauffman added.

Novartis is disputing the charges and has released a statement combating the notion that its activities could have placed patients at risk.

“At NPC patients are the focus of all we do. We want to support the best possible outcome for a patient taking a Novartis medication prescribed by their physician,” said the company’s president, Andre Wyss.

Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.