A federal judge rebuked the U.S. Department of Justice in its bid to dismiss nearly a dozen lawsuits alleging drug makers devised schemes in which nurses were used illegally to promote their medicines and boost prescriptions, an arrangement that purportedly violated federal kickback laws.

The decision is a setback to the federal government as it attempts to implement a new policy for dismissing whistleblower lawsuits when declining to intervene, or join the case. A Justice Department memo issued last year directed its attorneys to consider moving to dismiss lawsuits if they appear deficient or following an investigation of claims made by the whistleblower.

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