BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler filed a civil lawsuit on Monday against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for allegedly paying kickbacks to a former national pharmacy company to boost sales.

Novartis allegedly paid kickbacks to BioScrip Inc. to increase sales of Exjade, an iron reduction drug, in Maryland and other states. BioScrip recently resolved claims related to the scheme's impact on Maryland's Medicaid program in a settlement. Maryland will recover approximately $13,500 as part of that settlement.

"It is clear that the pharmacy took part in a scheme to boost its profits at the expense of sound patient care," Gansler said. "The kickback scheme not only violated the law, it potentially put Marylanders at risk of serious health consequences."

Novartis allegedly began paying kickbacks to promote Exjade sales in February 2007 after becoming concerned patients were discontinuing use of the drug because of side effects. Novartis allegedly paid the kickbacks to get BioScrip to attempt to keep patients on the drug as long as possible. BioScrip allegedly made thousands of calls to Medicaid recipients to encourage them to resume taking Exjade while downplaying the side effects.

Between February 2007 and May 2012, Maryland's Medicaid program paid approximately $500,000 for Exjade prescriptions filled by BioScrip.

BioScrip recently agreed to pay $15 million to the federal government and state governments to resolve Medicare and Medicaid claims related to the alleged kickback scheme.

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