Drug company corporate websites tell us of their integrity and utmost commitment to people’s health and well-being. The American Psychiatric Association’s website begins with “Healthy Minds. Healthy Lives” and asserts the “highest ethical standards of professional conduct.” Yet a mountain of evidence points to an entirely different picture. Most recently, thirty-eight state attorneys won a $68.5 million settlement with pharmaceutical titan AstraZeneca for unlawful marketing of antipsychotic Seroquel for unapproved use. These states also charged this company with failing to disclose the drug’s harmful side effects and concealing negative information about its safety and efficacy. “The company’s illegal practices put our most vulnerable populations at risk, including children and older patients with dementia and other debilitating diseases,” states Illinois Attorney General. U.S. sales of Seroquel brought in $5.3 billion for AstraZeneca last year.
Google the word “depression” and the first search result you’ll get is for the antipsychotic Seroquel XR. Visit WebMD and the home page hosts similar ads for Seroquel XR, above and adjacent to the lead news story. Who would know AstraZeneca inked the largest multi-state consumer protection settlement on record relating to deceptive Seroquel marketing just this week? For $68.5 million? Only a year after inking a similar settlement related to burying side effect and safety information for $520 million with the government? Who would know AstraZeneca has already settled nearly 25,000 personal injury lawsuits pertaining to Seroquel with more to come says ABC news?
First approved in 1997, Seroquel has enjoyed the camel-nose-under-the-tent phenomenon known as indications creep. First approved for schizophrenia, it was later approved for bipolar disorder and psychiatric conditions in children. But it was Seroquel’s 2009 approval as an add-drug for depression that helped it reach its spectacular sales of $5.3 billion in 2010 thanks to the US’ walloping depression “market” of 20 million.
NEW YORK—-The state Attorney General’s office has reached a $3.1 million settlement with the major pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca following allegations that it improperly marketed and promoted the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. The agreement is part of a record 37-state settlement totaling $68.5 million – the largest ever multi-state consumer protection-based pharmaceutical settlement.
In addition to New York, attorneys general of the following states and the District of Columbia participated in the settlement: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Thursday’s deal is the second multimillion-dollar Seroquel settlement brought by government prosecutors in the past two years. Last April AstraZeneca agreed to pay $520 million to settle similar allegations brought by the federal Department of Justice.
The new settlement stemmed from a separate three-year investigation led by the Attorney General of New Jersey. As part of the agreement AstraZeneca must publish any gifts or payments to physicians on a public website. The company also agreed to make sure that payment incentives to sales representatives do not encourage off-label promotion.
Allegations of off-label drug marketing have become increasingly common in the past decade, with the drug industry eclipsing all others as the source of fraud-related settlements with the federal government. Approximately 80 percent of the $3.1 billion in penalties collected last fiscal year by the government came from the health care sector, including drugmakers, insurers and hospitals, according to Taxpayers Against Fraud.
A mother-turned advocate’s journey that links a non-profit children’s advocacy group, with assets over $15 million  with nationally-renowned mass tort and class action defense law firms, to the Connecticut DCF – an $865 million bureaucracy, as described by the Connecticut Mirror.