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In an unexpected move, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow Novartis (NVS) to pay for travel, lodging, and meal expenses for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries who must leave home to be administered the Kymriah gene therapy.

The HHS OIG issued a so-called advisory opinion in response to a request from the drug maker, which wanted to avoid sanctions that would normally be levied against a pharmaceutical company that sought to reimburse Medicare and Medicaid patients. Under federal law, such payments would be considered the equivalent of a kickback.

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