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Senator asks Novartis to explain its payments to Cohen, noting FDA approval of cancer drug

The multi-layered scandal over payments by several major companies to Michael Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC—the firm used to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money over her alleged affair with Donald Trump—continues to get more complicated. This morning, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) wrote letters to both Cohen and Novartis, demanding more information, including all communications, about the lawyer’s work for the Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

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Expressing his “deep concern” in his letter to Novartis, Wyden highlights the fact that Novartis made $1.2 million in payments to Cohen’s firm during the time that the Food and Drug Administration was deciding whether to grant approval to Novartis for its breakthrough cancer drug, Kymriah. The leukemia drug was eventually approved and “has been a key source of revenue for the company’s line of oncology drugs, its largest business unit,” notes Wyden in the first paragraph of his letter. Later, he notes that Kymriah has a list price of $475,000, and adds that Novartis was also deep in negotiations with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over how government health programs would pay for the expensive drug.

Wyden wields a sharp pen, noting that Cohen’s firm is “not a healthcare policy consultancy” and that Cohen is not a registered lobbyist (which implies that Novartis may be violating federal anti-bribery statutes). In his letter to Cohen, the senator noted that Novartis is currently being investigated by the Greek government over accusations of bribery to 10 high-profile politicians in that country.

Reached for comment, a spokesman for Novartis told Fast Company: “We anticipated this letter which we received and plan to fully cooperate.”

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