After several years of courtroom squabbling, a federal court judge ruled that Novartis (NVS) must face trial in a case brought by the federal government and more than two dozen states, alleging the drug maker violated kickback laws by paying doctors to prescribe some of its medicines.

In his order, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe concluded the federal government provided sufficient evidence of a “company-wide kickback scheme,” but does not have to prove a direct “quid pro quo” agreement between Novartis and doctors for the company to be liable under the False Claims Act. The drug maker was accused of paying doctors speaking fees to inappropriately boost prescribing that led to false claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid.

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