AstraZeneca Pays $520 M to Settle Seroquel Whistle Blower Cases
The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said that it had reached a $520 million agreement to settle two federal investigations and two whistle-blower lawsuits over the sale and marketing of its blockbuster psychiatric drug Seroquel.
One of the investigations related to “selected physicians who participated in clinical trials involving Seroquel,” AstraZeneca disclosed in a government filing. The other case related to off-label promotion of the drug.
As a result of aggressive marketing, Seroquel has been increasingly used for children and elderly people for indications not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors are permitted to prescribe any approved drug for off-label uses.
Seroquel was the top-selling antipsychotic drug in America. It had $17 billion in sales in the United States since 2004, according to IMS Health, a research firm.
The name of the whistle-blowers and other details of the suits remained sealed in federal court.
Earlier this year, Eli Lilly & Company paid $1.4 billion over its marketing of Zyprexa, another antipsychotic drug. And Pfizer announced it would pay $2.3 billion, including a record $1.195 billion criminal fine, mostly over its painkiller Bextra, which has been withdrawn from the market.
AstraZeneca also said it had been served with 14,444 civil lawsuits over the drug as of Oct. 9. Blizzard, a lawyer for some of the people suing AstraZeneca, said that many patients have developed diabetes and other health problems because of misleading marketing.
Mr. Blizzard said he did not know what clinical trials were part of the inquiry. But in one trial, known as Study 15, he noted, an e-mail message showed a company official saying “a great ‘smoke and mirrors’ job’ ” had been done on a “buried” study in 1997, the year the F.D.A. approved Seroquel.
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