An AstraZeneca Plc saleswoman told a U.S. doctor the antipsychotic Seroquel didn’t cause diabetes almost four years after the company warned Japanese physicians about the drug’s links to the disease, internal documents show.
Nancy White, the saleswoman, and a colleague met with an unidentified doctor in July 2006 who reported “getting a lot of flak” from patients about Seroquel’s diabetes links, according to a note unsealed as part of a lawsuit.
AstraZeneca wrote in November 2002 to Japanese doctors that it received a dozen reports of diabetes-related cases tied to Seroquel “where causality with the drug could not be ruled out.”
White said in the 2006 note that she told the physician that “there has been no causative effect” found between Seroquel and diabetes. The doctor “said he would not quit writing” prescriptions for Seroquel “due to this at this time,” White reported.
More than 15,000 patients have sued London-based AstraZeneca, claiming the company withheld information about links between diabetes and Seroquel. Many of the suits also claim AstraZeneca promoted Seroquel, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, for unapproved uses.
Seroquel, which generated sales of $4.45 billion in 2008, is the company’s second-biggest seller after the ulcer treatment Nexium.
A federal judge in Orlando, Florida, ordered AstraZeneca to unseal the sales-call notes by Sept. 11 after Bloomberg News filed a motion to gain access to company files turned over in Seroquel litigation. The judge allowed AstraZeneca to withhold physicians’ names on privacy grounds.
All federal-court cases over Seroquel, a so-called atypical or second-generation anti-psychotic medicine, have been consolidated in Orlando for pre-trial proceedings.
Lawyers for ex-Seroquel users say evidence shows the company downplayed the ties between Seroquel-related weight gain and diabetes to protect sales.
In the 2002 letter, AstraZeneca officials warned Japanese doctors not to prescribe the drug for diabetic patients and to push users to monitor their blood-sugar levels. Jewell acknowledged earlier this year AstraZeneca didn’t start warning U.S. doctors to monitor blood-glucose levels until January 2004.
“It’s pretty clear that if a drug poses a diabetes risk in one country, it poses that risk in others,” Dan Carlat, a psychiatrist at Tufts University in Boston who writes a blog about the health-care industry, said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s ethical to warn doctors in Japan about this drug and then downplay or ignore the risk in the U.S.”
In another note recently unsealed by the company, salesman Eric Payne alerted his supervisors in January 2005 that he had “discussed weight gain associated with atypicals” with another unidentified doctor.
Payne assured the physician there was a low incidence of Seroquel users gaining weight and encouraged the doctor to make the drug his “first line choice,” according to a copy of the note.
Documents unsealed earlier in the Seroquel litigation show AstraZeneca trained its sales force to deflect questions about links between weight gain and the drug.
In a 2005 voice-mail, for example, AstraZeneca manager Christine Ney offered the company’s U.S. salespeople information they could use to “neutralize customer objections to Seroquel’s weight and diabetes profile.”
Eric Garneff, an AstraZeneca salesman, told his bosses in a newly unsealed October 2005 note that he sought to “neutralize any questions associated with” Seroquel and weight.
To help market their drugs, companies often pay doctors to speak about their medicines at conferences or other physician gatherings, said Barton Moffatt, a Mississippi State University bioethicist who has written about pharmaceutical industry marketing.
“They are looking for doctors who like the drugs to be good advocates for the products,” according to Moffatt.
AstraZeneca officials offered as much as $1,500 to doctors to speak about Seroquel’s benefits, according to the unsealed sales notes.
The case is In Re Seroquel Products Litigation, 06-MD- 01769, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Orlando).
If you or a family member has been personally injured because of the fault of someone else: by the use of dangerous and defective drugs, bad products, or toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Defective Drugs Product Liability Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.
The Dr. Shezad Malik Law is currently evaluating and accepting Seroquel Diabetes Side Effect cases.