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Novartis Japan’s Office Raided by Prosecutors, Adding to Probes

Novartis AG’s Japanese unit said prosecutors raided its office in Tokyo today, adding to probes of the maker of the Diovan hypertension pill.

Novartis will cooperate fully with the investigation, Yumi Ishii, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman at the drugmaker, said by telephone. Novartis’s office in the city was searched over a possible breach of a law regulating exaggerated advertisements, Kyodo News reported.

The Japanese unit has been investigated over claims of improper involvement in independent drug trials. A former director of the unit’s scientific affairs department was arrested in Tokyo yesterday and accused of manipulating data on a drug study.

Nobuo Shirahashi, the former employee, violated pharmaceutical law by understating side effects in a study that evaluated Diovan’s efficacy in cutting stroke risk and getting researchers to publish it, the Tokyo prosecutors office said.

In January, Japan’s health ministry filed a complaint to Tokyo prosecutors against Novartis, seeking a criminal probe of the subsidiary for possible breach of rules by exaggerating Diovan’s efficacy in marketing materials.

Novartis Japan yesterday apologized for “the concerns and inconvenience” it caused and said it would continue to cooperate with the probe.

An investigation by a third-party commission appointed by the company disclosed earlier this year that Novartis employees destroyed evidence and may have obtained patients’ personal information during a doctor-led leukemia study.

In April, the company named new top executives at the unit amid the probes, including Dirk Kosche, who took over from Yoshiyasu Ninomiya as head of the Japan business.

Japan accounted for about $4.52 billion, or 7.8 percent, of revenue at Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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