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Merck to pay out $671 million in fraud settlement



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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Drug manufacturer Merck & Co. will pay $671 million to settle claims that it overcharged the government for its products and bribed doctors to prescribe them.

The overcharges, which date back about 10 years, involve Medicaid programs in 49 states, including Utah. Merck is alleged to have dealt underhandedly with the medications Zocor, Mevacor, Vioxx and Pepcid.

A nationwide investigation sparked by a salesman-turned-whistleblower and a Louisiana doctor who exposed overcharging led to the settlement, which was announced Thursday. It's being called one of the biggest settlements in the history of health care fraud.

A company spokesman says Merck's decision to settle does not equate to an admission of guilt.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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