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. ugh

    You know what the problem with this world is? Not enough of us live by the Golden Rule.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bill

    A story with no story. Thank you CNN.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Man

    This fine only means that now you will have to pay more for it.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Richard Puente

    This fine is a drop in the bucket for the drug companies. I'm happy to see something finally being done to curtail this kind of crime.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dale

    the main problem with this is that in one way or another the price of the drugs that they make has just gone up, and this hurts the people that are using that drug and other drugs supplied by that company. Talk about a screw job! What the government should have done was force the removal of the Patent of the drug so it goes generic sooner rather then later allowing others to manufacture the drug, and sell it cheaper...... Punishment to the drug company, Help to the consumer.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    I'm really just now getting a sense of how un-informed you people are in the country and how much your comments make no sense and scare me. Either you arre un-educated or horribly miss-informed.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Serena

    I took Seroquel for my bipolar disorder for 6 months last year. I complained to my doctor that it was causing me to twitch uncontrollably he said that I was just fighting the medicine and increased my dosage. Everytime I went in and complained, he increased my dosage. I did my research, I found that this was a side effect and that I shouldn't be taking it. I immediately found another doctor, as soon as I told him what was happening he said that I had to get off of it and he perscribled a different medication. For many of us who are bipolar, its not a one drug fits all kind of thing, for me it took almost a year and many different combinations of meds before we found out what worked for me. For many people seroquel works for them and thats great. For those of you who are quick to comdem the drug companies, you need to realize that some of us with bipolar disorder would have a very hard time functioning in the real world without medication. Yes, what AstraZenica did was against the law, and yes they should be punished in some way for that, but putting them out of business, or large fine are not the way to go. Many people benifit from these medications, and by assesing more fines it is going to make these drugs more expensive and harder for people who need them to get them.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sameeker

    Nice start; however, astra should also have to surrneder all profits on the drug to date and for a year afterwards in addition to the fine. Also, the people responsible should be doing mandatory federal prison time for drug traficking. They might even have to quit with the expensive ads everywhere to pay for the fine. Wouldn't that be nice. I am just sick of fines that don't accomplish anything. When companies make profits in billions on each brand, a fine this size can just be considered a cost of doing business. Time for some real teeth.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. spookiewriter

    The basic gist of the marketing complaint is that they forgot to mention that it causes weight gain. Not just a pound or 2, but 20 or more lbs. in a good portion of the patients taking it.

    Because they failed to tell anyone about this, diabetics and those who need to watch their weight were getting this drug, gaining a bunch of weight and getting ill or even dying from this "side-effect".

    April 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sam Clare

    What a deeply researched and informative article!

    Wow, since I've taken Seroquil before, I am so glad to know now why and how exactly it was mis-marketed! Thanks CNN for the in-depth reporting and knowledge you've provided!!

    April 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    @ spookiewriter

    No thats not it

    April 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Martin

    It's an antipsychotic?

    So now they're going to have all those psychopaths after them for a new drug?

    April 27, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chelsea

    I think this is a great thing. This drug was given to me to for ADHD (yes, that"s right, an atypical anti-psychotic for ADHD) and it made me want to kill myself. I eventually did OD on it and while we were in the hospital, the doctor went over my drug list... he asked why I was on it, my mom told him why, and he told my mom to NEVER give me this drug again because I am NOT a candidate for its use.

    April 27, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. daniel anderson

    seroquel gave my wife diabetes and i have many problems because my liver wont metabolize alot of meds yet im court ordered to take them!that is why medical marijuana is so important to me and my wife because that doesnt happen!while tim pawlenty sits in minnesota and vetoes it on the polices recommendation while not taking the people that can be helped by it and says how much compassion he has for us!thats called hypocrisy!that is why the MARCH FOR MARIJUANA is so important in minneapolis on may first!for more info on the march for marijuana go to the website norml.com!Minneapolis: Chris Wright tc_wright38@yahoo.com Phone: 651-280-7922 Noon-time rally marching to Smith Triangle Park (24th Street and Hennepin Ave) and returning to Washburn Fair-Oaks. Start/meet: 24th Street and Hennepin at PieceMakers Pipe Shop!even if you dont smoke but are in support of it please attend and let tim pawlenty know!its our country and our goverment is failing us miserably(both left and right) lets take our country back,they for us not us for them!so please stand up for what you believe in not just medical marijuana p,please for our childrens stake!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Serena


    Yes they did mention weight gain and diabetes as potential side effects. They are in trouble for marketing it for purposes that were not FDA approved.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
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