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Merck to Pay More Than $650 Million to Resolve Claims of Fraudulent Price Reporting and Kickbacks
Date:2/7/2008

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Merck & Company has agreed to pay more than $650 million to resolve allegations that the pharmaceutical manufacturer failed to pay proper rebates to Medicaid and other government health care programs and paid illegal remuneration to health care providers to induce them to prescribe the company's products, the Justice Department announced today. The allegations were brought in two separate lawsuits filed by whistleblowers under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.

"Not only is the combined recovery in these two cases one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements ever achieved by the Justice Department," said Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, "it reflects our continuing effort to hold drug companies accountable for devising pricing schemes that deliberately seek to deny federal health care programs the same lower prices for drugs that are available to other commercial customers."

H. Dean Steinke, a former Merck employee, alleged in his suit filed in Philadelphia that Merck violated the Medicaid Rebate Statute in connection with its marketing of its drugs Zocor and Vioxx. (Zocor is a cholesterol lowering drug and Vioxx, pulled from the market by Merck in September of 2004, was used for the treatment of acute pain and in the treatment of arthritis.) Merck allegedly offered deep discounts for the two drugs if hospitals used large quantities of those drugs in place of competitors' brands.

The Medicaid Rebate Statute requires that drug manufacturers report their "best prices" and other cost information to the government in order to ensure that Medicaid obtains the benefit of the same discounts and price concessions that other purchasers enjoy. An exception to this rule allows manufacturers to exclude from the prices they report any discounted prices that are "nominal" in amount. Merck improperly termed as "nominal" the prices it offered to hospitals to boost t
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SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice
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