April 27th, 2010
01:43 PM ET

Drug maker to pay $520 million fine for illegal marketing

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has agreed to pay a $520 million fine to settle claims that it illegally marketed its antipsychotic drug Seroquel, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

AstraZeneca is charged with fraudulently marketing Seroquel and promoting the drug to patients and physicians for uses that the Food and Drug Administration never approved, Attorney General Eric Holder said at Tuesday's settlement announcement.

The pharmaceutical giant has also been accused of violating anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to refer the drug to patients, while at the same time bringing in money from government health care programs.

"According to the settlement, AstraZeneca's illegal marketing of the drug led to millions of dollars in false claims against federal and state programs like Medicare and Medicaid," Holder said.

The settlement fine of $520 million, which will be paid to federal and state taxpayers, is the most money ever paid by a business in a civil-only settlement for charges of off-label marketing, the Department of Justice said.

"These were not victimless crimes," said Holder. "Illegal acts by pharmaceutical companies and false claims against Medicare and Medicaid can put the public health at risk, corrupt medical decisions by health care providers, and take billions of dollars directly out of taxpayers' pockets."

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soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. Nicholas M Cummings, Rochester, MA

    I've been through therapy for depression following a car accident and I SWORE that they were pedaling drugs and stringing out our sessions instead of trying to seek a permanent solution. This only justifies my claims.

    April 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. one at a time

    @ Vote Republican - The medical industry shouldn't be free market driven, that's the reason that so many people can't afford the health care that they desperately need now. This isn't electronics, or real estate, stocks, or retail that we're talking about, but people's lives. Its a shame that this country has got to the point that the overall bottom line in profits has become more important than the value of life. When did we start putting a pricetag on living. If you're a born child into poverty then they're better off dead than risking bonuses in the medical markets I'm all for capitalism, but some things aren't supposed to be about profits but about people. Health care is one of them.

    April 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Terry - Indiana

    Greed! This is all about greed. Pharmaceutical Companies, just like Health Insurance Companies, are based on greed, not treating or curing a patient. When doctors are paid to prescribe drugs, that to me is not any different from Members of the House and Senate receiving millions of dollars from Healthcare Insurance Companies, just to vote against reforms. Our system is broken. When you have 1% of the population controlling all of the wealth, the government can be bought, doctors can be bought, and the final act will soon play out. America is in a spiral of doom and we are less than two years from a complete collapse. Take a pill and call your doctor in the morning.

    April 27, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Vicki

    I was given this for depression. It made me twitch, I couldn't stop moving my legs, and I felt like jumping out of my skin. It is upsetting that these type of drugs are being prescribed to people who aren't psychotic. This drug is horrible and I feel sorry for anyone who is conned into taking it. I stayed on it for two days, and then I refused to take it.

    April 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SRSLY???

    They should have been fined for DOUBLE what they made!

    April 27, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    $520 million dollars is in no way a drop in the bucket, I don't care what company you work for. Half a billion dollars. I'm not saying they didn't deserve it, but you better believe they're feeling the blow. Although it varies, that's actually close to the cost it takes to develop a drug.

    In this market, you have to take the good with the bad. Yes, drug companies are still businesses and they are significantly invested in making profit. The drug industry in particular is extremely competitive, and they have to rush to maximize their patent protection. After that's done, 90% of sales for that drug or more are gone within a year. But, being a business, they are resourceful, squeaking out spinoff products like extended/delayed release versions, or the same medication in a different route of administration (like cherry-flavored chewable pills for kids).

    Sure, that's sleazy, and it puts a plug in innovation, but the number one motivator is still there to inspire development of new drugs: profit. Just like the health insurance industry and our doctors who spend a great deal of their money and their time for the promise of making much more in return, the market and the promise of profit spurs innovation. It's modern warfare. And we benefit from pharmaceutical companies and the dollar signs in their eyes. They're always pushing data to the FDA for new indication approvals for existing medication. They didn't do it right this time, and they paid the price. I think that's all we can ask from them. Let them stay in business to develop more life-saving medication that our insurance companies will be happy to pay thousands of dollars for (that's worth lives to me).

    April 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. American X

    I started taking this about 1.6 yrs ago. I took it nightly to help with sleep. It would always give me the munchies and leave me very groggy the next day. I would need a lot of caffeine every morning and always felt lethargic. Lazy – uninspired – lacking motivation.
    It definitley mellowed me out and probably stabilized my mood swings – but it also took a lot of joy out of my life.. Every day felt like a chore – and I was only interested in getting home from work – laying on the couch or going back to bed. If I took more than 50mg at night I would sleep for 15 hrs and not want to get out of bed. I just thought I was depressed and couldn't understand why everything was so boring and I never wanted to do anything. Finally I weaned myself off by slowly decreasing the does over a period of a couple of weeks., Last week I visited my Dr. and he suggested I continue taking the drug – even after I told him the side effects. He loaded me up w. samples and suggested it was a good idea for me to continue with this drug. The last couple of nights i have taken a 25mg pill and divided into 1/3s – it still lnocks me out and leaves me lethargice – even at small doses. This stuff is a Zombie drug. I can't beleive that I have read on here that people are taking 300 mgs a day? Wow!! cant imagine – that would knock me out of r a week. I don't like this stuff. Now I understand why my Dr. kept shoving it at me.
    Is there anhy class action lawsuit pending for patients – clients ??

    April 28, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. cvp723

    AstraZeneca was charged with promoting Seroquel for such unapproved uses as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and bipolar maintenance, and for unapproved populations such as children and the elderly, according to the Justice Department.

    April 28, 2010 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. DONALD LEISHMAN

    AH ZENECA IS CAUGHT REDHANDED, NOT SOON ENUF FOR ME I HAVEW BEEN
    SICK FOR THE LAST SIX MONTHS. SHAME ON THEM.

    April 28, 2010 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Johnson

    I was put on seroquel and it wrecked my sleeping patterns, I was dependent on the drug for 2 years and it completely destroyed my teeth along the gum line from the dry mouth side effect produced while sleeping.

    April 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tauleonardo

    Marijuana medicinal plant will eventually be legalized everywhere because guess what: it should not have been illegal in the first place, and people are starting to wake up to this simple fact. Marijuana medicinal plant would never have become illegal, had it not been for the racist prohibitionist Harry Anslinger and his infamous Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which was motivated not by scientific discoveries, but the most ignominious racist considerations. This status quo cannot be preserved with respect to marijuana medicinal plant that has been used by humans for over 10,000 years without one single fatal outcome, without any physical withdrawal syndrome as opposed to alcohol and most controlled prescription drugs. Cannabis use has been shown to suppress violent behavior, and I am sure that in the future it will be shown to be a "barrier", rather than a "gateway" to alcohol and hard drug use. In all the polls over 80% of participating public want medical marijuana legalized, since its current classification by the DEA as Schedule I drug is against all scientific reality. But why listen to me in this respect when it is enough to listen to none other than the American Medical Association which now recognized the remarkable medicinal properties of Cannabis Sativa medicinal plant, and is urging the government to change its classification ASAP.
    The "opponents" of marijuana legalization for at least medical use clearly remind me of Marxists, as I fought Marxism long ago just like I fight the Cannabis prohibition right now. After Karl Marx labeled religion "opium for the people", subsequent Marxists suppressed religion despite the people's will (just like the prohibitionists do right now with respect to marijuana) saying in effect, "We'll take opium from the mouths of fools, they will thank us later". The same thing, that is the Government assuming the role of a final arbiter of what is or is not "good" for the people, instead of the people determining this for themselves.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Poetry

    Great post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired! Very helpful info specially the last section 🙂 I deal with such information a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

    April 6, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
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