Novartis CEO sets aside $700 million to settle doctor bribery lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: CEO Vas Narasimhan of Swiss drugmaker Novartis addresses the company's annual news conference in Basel, Switzerland January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) - Novartis NOVN.S Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan set aside $700 million to settle a U.S. doctor bribery lawsuit, as the Swiss drugmaker seeks to close the chapter on allegedly aggressive business practices that exposed it to litigation risks.

“Consistent with our efforts to resolve our legacy compliance-related allegations, right now we’re working in settlement discussions to resolve the civil suit...on speaker programs and other promotional events that happened between 2002 and 2011,” Narasimhan said on a conference call on Thursday.

“We’ve provisioned approximately $700 million for any potential settlement.”

Narasimhan outlined the settlement talks after Novartis raised 2019 sales and profit guidance, on accelerating sales of drugs including Entresto for heart failure and Cosentyx for inflammatory disorders and as its biosimilar copies of rivals’ top-selling medicines increase their market share in Europe.

Reporting by John Miller; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi