Merck Serono Pays $44 Million to Settle Kickback Charge
The Department of Justice said that multinational drugmaker Merck Serono SA has agreed to pay $44.3 million to settle allegations that it illegally promoted one of its drugs using kickbacks to doctors, according to the Associated Press. Federal prosecutors said that Merck Serono and EMD Serono allegedly made inappropriate payments to hundreds of doctors for prescribing its multiple sclerosis drug, Rebif, between 2002 and 2009. Merck Serono paid to send doctors to various training meetings and conferences at upscale resorts and other locations, according to the Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors said the kickbacks resulted in "false claims" for the drug being billed to the federal health programs Medicare and Medicaid. The two programs, which cover the elderly and poor, provide prescription drug and health care coverage to nearly 80 million Americans. The Department of Justice has increasingly used the False Claims Act to target pharmaceutical companies in recent years, reaching multibillion dollar settlements with Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly & Co. Inc. and other drugmakers.