AstraZeneca Settles Federal Investigation on Illegal Drug Marketing

The U.S. Department of Justice completed a deal with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca where the drug company agreed to pay $520 million to settle a federal investigation into questionable marketing practices for its anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel.

The government had accused AstraZeneca of violating anti-kickback laws through its practice of paying doctors to refer Seroquel to patients while it also brought in additional money from government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The pharmaceutical company was also accused of promoting favorable research on Seroquel’s effects which misled doctors and patients alike, while at the same time failing to disclose studies that showed Seroquel increased the risk of diabetes.

Currently there are over 25,000 pharmaceutical litigation claims against AstraZeneca alleging that Seroquel caused increased incidences of diabetes and weight gain. AstraZeneca’s aggressive marketing and promoting of Seroquel helped increase the prescription of the anti-psychotic drug among children and the elderly, oftentimes for indications or uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Some of these civil lawsuits involve children who gained weight rapidly after starting on Seroquel. In addition, numerous deaths of patients taking Seroquel have prompted the issuance of warnings against prescribing the drug to elderly patients with dementia.

One of the key documents in these civil lawsuits is a company e-mail that confirms that AstraZeneca buried a 1997 study showing that Seroquel users gained 11 lbs. a year on average. Instead the pharmaceutical company publicized a study claiming that Seroquel users lost weight. An additional e-mail specifically complemented AstraZeneca employees for their “great smoke-and-mirrors job” for handling unfavorable studies.

The money from AstraZeneca’s $520 million settlement will go to both federal and state taxpayers. According to the Department of Justice this settlement is the most money that a business has ever paid in a civil-only settlement involving off-label marketing charges.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois pharmaceutical error lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Chicago, Arlington Heights, Downers Grove, and Naperville.

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