Last week, the Department of Justice announced its latest victory against healthcare fraud. Merck Sharp & Dohme, one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has agreed to pay $950 million to settle both civil fraud allegations and criminal charges relating to the promotion of the painkiller Vioxx.
According to the fraud allegations, Merck was accused of making deceptive and inaccurate statements about the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx in order to increase sales. Additionally, based on these alleged false statements to Medicaid agencies, Merck was accused of influencing the payment decisions of the government for the drug. Finally, Merck was accused of making false claims about the use of Vioxx for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Merck has agreed to pay the government and participating Medicaid states approximately $630 million to settle these allegations.
Like the civil settlement, Merck’s criminal plea also relates to the misbranding of Vioxx to treat rheumatoid arthritis. According to the charges, Merck was promoting Vioxx as a RH painkiller before the drug was approved as such. Under the terms of the settlement, Merck will plead guilty to these charges and will pay an approximately $320 million criminal fine.
Merck is the latest pharmaceutical company to pay large sums to settle various healthcare fraud accusations. Some other recent settlements have been paid by GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly & Co., and AstraZeneca. If you know about healthcare fraud, you can help the government recover even more money from these organizations that abuse the healthcare system. Contact our qui tam attorneys today.