OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today that Washington joined other states and the federal government to reach an agreement with pharmaceutical manufacturer EMD Serono, Inc. The settlement resolves claims that the company paid illegal kickbacks to medical professionals in order to promote Rebif, a multiple sclerosis (MS) medication.
Washington state will receive $338,071 from the settlement. Of those funds, $135,228 will be split with the federal government, which shares the cost with Medicaid, and $202,842 will be returned to the state’s general fund.
Rebif is approved to treat relapsing forms of MS, a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. From March 2002 through December 2009, EMD Serono compensated health care professionals for speaking engagements and to attend trainings, advisory and consultant meetings, many held at lavish resorts and upscale urban locations. The drug maker also spent on educational grants and charitable contributions.
Government attorneys alleged that at least one purpose of these payments was to induce health care professionals to prescribe Rebif. It’s against federal law to pay kickbacks in order to promote prescription drugs. Violations of the law impact the budgets of government funded health care programs.
Under the agreement, EMD Serono agrees to pay the participating states and the federal government $44.3 million, plus interest. Medicaid programs nationwide will receive approximately $19 million of the total settlement. Payment amounts are determined based on how much was spent on the drug in each state during the time in question.
Last calendar year, the Medicaid Fraud Unit recovered nearly $25 million in settlements with drug companies.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725