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Novartis threatened with Japan sanctions

Japan is a thriving market for Novartis drugs Keystone

The ongoing woes of Novartis in Japan have escalated with the Japanese health ministry threatening to impose a business ban on the Swiss pharmaceutical giant. Novartis has been probed several times in Japan for allegedly interfering with drug study data.

Last year Novartis replaced the head of its Japan business after an independent investigation revealed that staff had improperly interfered with a doctor-led leukemia study. The authorities also launched raids at Novartis premises and arrested a former staff member.

The catalogue of allegations, some of which date back two years, also include improper behaviour during independent studies on hypertension drug Diovan and cancer treatment Tasigna, and false marketing of drugs.

Novartis acknowledged that it had received a pre-notification of a business suspension order from the Japanese health authorities. “[We] will take all necessary steps to ensure that Japanese patients are not adversely affected,” Novartis said in an emailed response to, adding that “the financial impact will be manageable”.

According to Reuters, Japan contributed around $4 billion towards the Basel-based drug company’s global sales of $58 billion (CHF53.7 billion) last year.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR