Record-setting Settlement Says AstraZeneca Lied About Seroquel Effects

astrazeneca settlementAstraZeneca agreed to pay $3.1 million to settle a New York State Attorney General's lawsuit saying the British pharmaceutical company improperly promoted and marketed the schizophrenia drug Seroquel, concealing dangerous side effects such as diabetes from health care providers and the public.

New York's agreement is part of the largest consumer-protection settlement in history with a pharmaceutical company, including 37 states for a total of $68.5 million, state officials said. AstraZeneca marketed Seroquel's use "off-label," which means outside government-approved guidelines for what the drug is intended to treat. Introduced in the 1990s, Seroquel was thought then to produce fewer harmful side effects than existing drugs for treating schizophrenia in the long-term.However, the New York AG's office said though Seroquel did reduce problem side effects, it also produced hyperglycemia, or high blood-sugar, and diabetes. In addition, AstraZeneca marketed Seroquel for use in children, for use at high-dosage levels, for treating symptoms rather than diagnosed conditions, and to treat dementia and Alzheimer's Disease in the elderly, all outside its approved use.

"The illegal promotion of drugs for off-label uses and hiding scientific studies that reveal the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs must stop," New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said today in a statement. "Today's agreement is a reminder that those who put the health of New Yorkers at risk to make a quick buck will be brought to justice and forced to pay."

The New York AG's office said the drug company agreed to stop marketing Seroquel for unapproved uses. The settlement, filed in state court, also contains financial penalties and provisions against AstraZeneca intended to stop it from paying money to doctors to encourage them to prescribe the drug off-label. The settlement also requires AstraZeneca to provide truthful responses to requests for information on off-label use.

"While we deny the allegations, AstraZeneca believes it is important to bring these matters to a close and move forward with our business of providing medicines to patients," Tony Jewell, U.S.-based spokesman for AstraZeneca, said by e-mail.

The drug company reached settlements with 37 other states, including California, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.
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