Pharmaceutical Giant Serono Agrees to Pay $44.3 Million to Settle False Claims Act Case

Serono was charged with paying health care providers to induce them to prescribe Rebif.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers Serono Laboratories Inc., EMD Serono Inc., Merck Serono S.A, and Ares Trading S.A. have agreed to pay $44.3 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations in connection with the marketing of the drug Rebif, the Justice Department announced on May 4.

The settlement resolves allegations that Serono paid health care providers from the launch of Rebif in about January 2002 through December 2009, to induce them to promote or prescribe Rebif, a recombinant interferon injectable that is used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.

Serono is alleged to have made payments to providers for hundreds of speaker training meetings and programs, as well as payments for attending consultant, marketing and advisory board meetings, all at upscale resorts and other locations. Serono's actions allegedly resulted in the submission of false claims to federal health care programs including Medicare and Medicaid for the payment of Rebif, i.e., claims that were tainted by kickbacks.

"Health care decisions must be based solely upon what is best for the individual patient and not on which pharmaceutical company is paying the doctor the biggest kickback," said Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. "All consumers have the right to know that their health care provider's judgment about medications they should take has not been undermined by kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers."

Under the agreement announced today, the proceeds from the settlement will be split between the federal government and various states, with the United States receiving $34.6 million to resolve the federal claims and the states receiving $9.7 million to settle their respective claims under Medicaid.

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