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."

Read full CNNMoney.com story

soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. suesaner

    where is the story here? what did they do?

    April 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PJ

    Whenever I read comments to news stories on the web, I am always left thinking the same thing. Are Americans really this stupid? I mean, the inability to read or understand is staggering. The lack of critical thinking skills is frightening. Everybody thinks they understand how laws, regulations, science, the economy, etc. work- but nobody has a clue. It is just unbelievable. Everybody rails against the government in Washington, but they are elected by us, and based on what I see here, we have exactly the government we deserve. Governmental officials oversimplify, pander to to the stupid and fearful, etc. because they know their audience.

    April 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Somehow I always knew

    Can people who took this drug for purposes that were marketed illegally receive money from the lawsuit. Please let me know if anyone finds out about this and how to go about doing this without hiring a personal lawyer.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. UGH

    Yes – let's all bash the pharmaceutical companies... Until, of course, you get diagnosed with some disease and then it's "Oh my God, nobody has invented anything to treat this?!? Are you kidding me?!? Unacceptable!" There'd be articles on here about all these poor underserved people who are sick and nobody is working on a cure. Well if all of the big, bad, pharmaceutical companies go out of business, that's what will happen. You people all think that new therapies just fall out of the sky, rather than it taking years upon years of research and millions of dollars to produce them...

    April 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ian

    Drug companies have done wonders for the human population. So much good comes out of drug companies, yet so many seem to be blinded to that reality because of a few problems.

    I agree that drug companies should be held accountable when they mislead the public or produce a drug which is harmful. However, "we the people" need to remember that the good outweighs the bad.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gord

    When I was a kid, I don't remember seeing commercials on TV for psychoactive drugs, or "serious" drugs other than Tylenol. Now, you turn on the TV and there's an advertisement saying "ask your doctor", without you even knowing exactly what it was for!?!

    People should NOT be "asking their doctor" for drugs. Doctors should be prescribing medications – if absolutely necessary – based upon the symptoms and the disease.

    This world is FAR too medicated.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sad Statw

    Drugs are serious. The definition of Drug or druga is something that has a physiological effect. It is sad how often these are prescribed for emotional or spiritual ailments. It is also saddening how often patients rely on the drug only and not the therapeutic treatments that were initially used to help the healing process. Drugs that affect the brains chemistry are meant to be used, if ever, with a treatment plan including therapy to address underlying issues.

    I would be extremely cautious of any recommendations to take this drug with out the counseling aspect included and with out a plan to get off them. as with all things please read the labels for your and your children.

    Its hard to a fault business for doing what business's do, make money. They are entities very rarely one person. It is easy for them to forget about lives and see bottoms lines and margins. However when they break the law and when people are harmed for this they should be reprimanded accordingly.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Rich Guy

    That is nothing, that money will be recovered in one month of sales. Now, lets see if the goverment puts that money to good use.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Blue NC

    The Doctors prescribe 300mg and on up at the drop of the hat. This would knock me out for sixteen, seventeen hours straight. Taking 100 is plenty for me, so i bite off part of the pill, and it makes my free sample last for three months! They practically give it away, so I'm not sure whether to like or hate the company.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mr. D

    Having read the above comments it appears sentiment is that drug companies are evil and dollar grabbing.
    Few I bet who are complaining and spouting off have a grasp of what really goes into bringing a "molecule" (new potential drug) to market. Not days, months but multiple years of highly investigated research by top trained professionals. Dead ends are the likely end than success. Often these "molecules" are patented which means the clock starts ticking for when they go off patent and become available for copy as generics.
    Each company has to put these molecules through a pipeline of tests to determine what positive and negative effect it will have on a desired result. These clinical labs use cross sections of people and their results are gathered, evaluated and submitted to FDA to review. Remember the that drug patents have time limits. Drug companies are indeed walking a tight rope to bring the best and saftest drug to market. It should be known too that the drug companies are on strick timelines for submittal however, guess what, FDA does not have a penalty if they miss deadlines for their reviews. Thus some drug company teams are left sitting and waiting to respond. Clock is ticking and they just have to wait for FDA comments, acceptance or denial.
    While different drug companies have different "molecules" in their pipelines (those they have created in house or those they may purchase from smaller bio tech companies they have HUGE investments on each one. And more millions in research for each indication that the drug maybe used for. These add up to hundreds of millions of dollars invested with no final guarantee. Some go bust early, others later. Like sperm, few drugs make it to the marketing level to Drs.
    A tremendous change has evolved in the Pharma culture on how they can promote their represive drugs. They cannot even leave a logoed pencil for a Dr to use. Speaking fees that Drs received have been dramatically curtailed as have many other former base plates used by Pharma in the past.
    Remember all companies are in business to profit. Few industries that invest in products, systems etc spend the number of dollars that drug / bio tech companies do on the hope that they can make a profit.
    Finally, most if not all of the generic drugs you take all were the result of someones research and investment that is not making a profit now. Once off patent, drugs are available for "copy". Regulations on these copies is not nearly as stringent as on first line drugs. The saying you get what you pay for sometimes can hold true.
    Perhaps ask someone who has been on a generic equivalent drug for awhile. Does taking it always work the same? Did you know that depending on availability and cost to dispencing sites – they may switch between manufacturers for their best price. After all
    the dispencers want to make "some" profit. That pharmasist at your local pharmacy has to go through a tough college preparation and training – they have a lot of responsibilty and are also paid accordingly.
    Bottom line. Before you spout off a one liner about the drug companies being bad and greedy and all that. Would you put up your years salary on a small percentage chance it would make you a profit? Not many would take that risk.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    You want to REALLY stick it to Big Pharm? Legalize cannabis!

    April 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    @ Chris

    That won't do anything to big pharm but what it will do it take money out of the poclkets of illegal drug dealers and reduce crime 🙂

    April 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Poosh

    Yeah CNN, lame idea to post headlines only. How about a clickable link to a real article?

    April 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dave

    Watch out Lily (Zyprexa)... they are comming for you next

    April 27, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RJ

    Trey: Accidentally snorted it?? You have got to be kidding me! Try again.
    I take 50mg (prescribed 150mg, 50mg pills) for sleep, and haven't had any of the side effects. Of course it takes me an hour to get rid of the grogginess. If I take the full dose, forget it, i'm toast for at least 15 hrs..needless to say, i stick to the low dose.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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