Japan's health ministry filed a criminal complaint on Thursday against Novartis AG.
The complaint comes as the result of the pharmaceutical company's advertisements that praised the positive effects of the blood pressure drug Diovan using altered research, the Wall Street Journal reports. Filed with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office, the complaint stands as the first to be filed in Japan based specifically on exaggerated advertising that is banned under its pharmaceutical laws.
After two universities retraced papers on the drug's ability to prevent strokes and heart disease last year, numerous Japanese hospitals stopped offering Diovan. The company did admit last year that a Novartis employee had participated in studies that were found to contain falsified clinical research. But officials have denied any company involvement in running misleading advertisements for the drug or the flawed research.
Novartis first introduced Diovan to Japan in 2000 as a drug to lower blood-pressure. In a statement on the Japanese website, the company said it was cooperating with authorities and was taking the issue "extremely seriously."