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WHISTLEBLOWER SUITS AGAINST ASTRAZENECA SETTLE FOR $520 MILLION
Wednesday, 28th April
Drug maker AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $520 million to settle whistleblower lawsuits filed in federal court in Philadelphia that accused the company of engaging in illegal tactics -- including kickbacks to doctors -- to promote so-called "off-label" uses for one of its drugs.
The drug, Seroquel, is an anti-psychotic that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for narrow uses, such as combating schizophrenia or acute manic episodes in those with bipolar disorder. But prosecutors said AstraZeneca set out to market the drug directly to doctors for a wider range of ailments including Alzheimer's disease, anger management, depression and sleeplessness.
Among the alleged illegal tactics AstraZeneca used, the suits alleged, were payments to doctors to pose as authors of articles written by the company, or to deliver lectures encouraging unapproved uses of the drug.
The settlement, announced in Washington, D.C., is the largest amount ever paid by a company in a civil-only settlement of off-label marketing claims.
The federal government will receive $302 million, and states will share up to $218 million.
"People have a legal right to know that pharmaceutical companies are marketing their drugs only for uses approved by the FDA and that their doctors' judgment has not been affected by misinformation from a pharmaceutical company trying to boost revenues," U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy said.
"When pharmaceutical companies interfere with the FDA's mission to ensure that drugs are safe and effective, they undermine the doctor-patient relationship and put the health and safety of patients at risk," Levy said.
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