Sanofi, Viehbacher accused of kickbacks in whistleblower suit

A former paralegal from Sanofi, Diane Ponte has filed a whistleblower action alleging that Sanofi paid tens of millions of dollars to pharmacy groups and hospitals, through consultants Accenture and DEloitte using contracts that looked legitimate but which were in fact inducements to buy Sanofi products. Ultimately the kickbacks were used to spike sales of diabetes drugs in the States, according to the suit. The suit also alleges that about $1 billion is “unaccounted for” at the company.

The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court in Newark, names Sanofi, Viehbacher and several other top executives, CNBC reports.

Two years ago, Sanofi paid $109 million to settle U.S. allegations that it had provided free syringes of its arthritis injection Hyalgan to doctors to get them to prescribe the medication. The suit said the doctors then charged payers the regular rate for the doses they received at no cost. Giving meds away can be considered an inducement to prescribe and then charge federal programs for drugs that might not otherwise have been prescribed.

In July, a whistleblower claimed she was fired from Novartis ($NVS) for suggesting a $400,000 research grant to McKesson ($MCK) was being used to push the sale of its cancer drug Afinitor. And in September, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) agreed to pay $500 million in China to settle the ongoing criminal investigation tied to paying doctors and hospitals there bribes to buy more drugs.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers