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Sun Pharma ex-employee alleges US Law violation, discrimination

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ET Health
09th November, 2019 07:21 IST
MUMBAI: A former employee of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, India’s largest drug maker, has sued the company, for violating the US False Claims Act and discrimination at workplace.

Sandra Hagenbrock, who was national account director at Sun in the US and employed there from February 2016 to July 2019, alleged the company asked her to carry out off-label promotions of drugs, which she said was prohibited by federal laws. Off-label marketing is the promotion of drugs for uses not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

When Hagenbrock objected to the practice, she was disciplined and retaliated against, according to the lawsuit that ET has reviewed. She identified three drugs – Ilumya, Yonsa and Absorica – that were promoted off-label to the US Medicare programme. Sun Pharma did not immediately respond to an email from ET seeking comment on the matter.

“Plaintiff (the Sun former employee) alleges that defendant’s (Sun Pharma) scheme caused false claims to be submitted to the government and further believes that the government paid those false claims, plaintiff does not have sufficient detail to support that allegation at this time,” the petition said. The company’s off-label marketing “was (and continues to be), upon information and belief, approved at the highest levels,” she alleged.

Besides, she accused Sun of discriminating against her by promoting younger and less-qualified candidates to positions she had applied for and was objectively more qualified to perform.

Hagenbrock sought damages on over five counts including conspiring to create unlawful incentives in exchange for patient referrals and using false records and statements to get claims paid by the US government.

The lawsuit is an addition to the legal battles that Sun Pharma faces in India and the US. India’s capital market regulator is investigating allegations of corporate governance lapses by a whistle-blower a year ago. The company had to overhaul its business and top management structures after the complaint. Besides the investigation in India, Sun Pharma and eight other Indian drug makers are under the scanner for cartelisation.

The drugs named in the latest lawsuit are expected to be significant revenue generators for Sun Pharma. Ilumya is expected to reach a peak potential revenue of $300 million. Sun Pharma shares fell 4.2% to.`421.80 at the close on the BSE on Friday.
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