Updated on 22 March 2017
Swiss pharma giant Novartis has been imposed a fine of 200 million won ($174,628) by the South Korean Health Ministry for allegedly paying kickbacks to promote sales of its medicines. The country's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a statement on its website that it had imposed a three-month ban on the sales of three drugs. The fine is in lieu of a ban on 27 further drugs.
Novartis is one of the top-selling foreign pharmaceutical companies in South Korea, which is the tenth-largest market for the company in terms of sales. The 200 million-won fine is equivalent to a three-month ban of 30 drugs including Novartis' top-selling diabetes treatment, Galvus, according to the ministry.
The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare said in a statement, that the sales ban will be effective from March 17 to June 16.The Ministry added that it is in the process of reviewing its own administrative actions against Novartis Korea, which could take the form of a fine or a lifting of insurance benefits on drugs sold by the company here.
An official from the Health Ministry's Bureau of Health Insurance Policy told The Korea Herald that it is "carefully deciding" between a fine and an insurance benefit termination, as the latter could block local patients from accessing drugs that may be critical to their health.
Employees of the Swiss giant are accused of paying doctors rebates and kickbacks amounting to 2.6 billion won between 2011 and 2016 in return for promoting Novartis' medicines.