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The Department of Justice says Swiss drugmaker Merck Serono S.A. has agreed to pay more than $44 million to settle allegations that it illegally promoted one of its drugs using kickbacks to doctors.

Federal prosecutors said the company allegedly made inappropriate payments to hundreds of doctors for prescribing its multiple sclerosis drug Rebif between 2002 and 2009. Merck Serono paid for doctors to attend various training meetings and conferences at upscale resorts and other locations, according to the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors said the kickbacks resulted in "false claims" being billed to federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The Department of Justice has increasingly used the False Claims Act to target pharmaceutical marketing in recent years, reaching multi-billion dollar settlements with Pfizer, Eli Lilly and other drugmakers.

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