Novartis ousts top Japan execs in scandal

David Epstein, the head of the firm's pharmaceutical division, told a news briefing in Tokyo that the senior managers "resigned, they are out of the company", adding that "this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and a clear violation of our code of conduct".

"I would like to once again apologise for Novartis' involvement in this issue," Epstein told reporters on Thursday.

The move comes after a panel of outside lawyers hired by the company said earlier on Thursday that sales staff at the scandal-hit unit also hid their improper involvement in the drug studies which were probing possible side effects of cancer treatments.

The claims marked another blow for the drugmaker, less than two months after Japanese prosecutors raided its Tokyo office over claims Novartis exaggerated the benefits of a popular blood-pressure drug.

In the latest case, the panel found that staff had removed evidence from the Novartis office of their links to the research