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Ex-Novartis Pharma employee's acquittal over data falsification upheld by high court

Novartis Pharma K.K.'s blood pressure-lowering drug valsartan, sold under the trade name, "Diovan," is seen in this file photo taken in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 8, 2014. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- An appeals court on Nov. 19 upheld the acquittal of a former employee of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG's Japanese unit who stood accused of manipulating data to falsely advertise the effects of the firm's blood pressure drug.

The Tokyo High Court dismissed an appeal filed by prosecutors against a March 2017 Tokyo District Court ruling, which had found 67-year-old Nobuo Shirahashi and his former employer, Tokyo-based Novartis Pharma K.K., not guilty of violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act.

Shirahashi participated in a clinical research project at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine as a data analyst. During the research, he was accused of providing the team with data manipulated to exaggerate the effects of Novartis Pharma's blood pressure-lowering drug valsartan, sold under the trade name "Diovan." The team published a research paper based on the false data in 2011.

In the district court trial, prosecutors demanded that Shirahashi be given a 2 1/2-year prison term and that his employer pay a 4-million-yen fine. While recognizing that Shiraishi had manipulated data in connection with his work, however, the district court concluded that the paper did not motivate consumers to buy the product and therefore did not constitute false advertising under the law.

(Japanese original by Masanori Makita, City News Department)

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