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. daniel anderson

    300 CITIES WORLD WIDE MAY 1ST IS J-DAY,MARCH FOR MARIJUANA!CHECK NORML.COM FOR DETAILS AND A LIST OF PARTICIPATING CITIES!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rod

    Nice reporting CNN. Do you think you can print more than 20 leave it to your imagination words? Did you actually pay someone to produce this article?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ian Woo

    They'll probably be able to negotiate down those fines to nothing. Just like that refinery explosion in Anacortes, WA a little while back. They got slapped with over $80,000 in fines for 17 or so serious violations for the headlines and then they negotiated it down behind the scenes to I think $13,000 or $17,000 and only 3 violations on the record. They don't care about you or me.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jay

    Now really who is worse, these drug companies or your corner crack dealer?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mark in houston

    if you are on seroquel, it probably means you are still depressed and felt a minimum of satisfaction that the money you paid for the prescription is now being used to pay the fine.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. daniel anderson

    4 years ago astrazeneca did not mention diabetes,were in a class action lawsuit so know the facts before you start passing false info!

    April 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brandon

    Do you think they pay the fine .. I think not ! That's what they have insurance for

    April 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. patricia

    they were fined for illegally marketing the drug for other purposes not okay ed by FDA, but doctors can prescribe the drug for off label purposes, which is ok to do.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jrock

    OK so here it goes im perscribed seroquel for agitataion and it says it right on the script and my paper work from the pharmacy and now they say that that was false advertisement for the meds now i have been on this for about 1 1/2 years and i have had many people say i am more agitatated while taking the meds wich i finaly saw cause when i i get agitatated i blow up while on the meds recently i went to jail for geting to agitated and geting violent now that i have stoped taking the meds for the last 3 weeks i no longer blow up so now that we all know that it was a false advertisement and im sure im not the only one that has had problems with this what is astrazeneca going to for us people that read what the warrnings are and what it is suposed to treat and it was lies and we have ben taking meds we dont need cause of there lies i think they should settal with us the people.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ferrygal

    Read the book Mad in America. You will learn how these antipsychotics came into the market place. Seroquel is not a sleeping pill, but will knock you out cold. It has very negative side effects. No one needs this except people with severe bipolar, and it doesn't always help them.
    I have a family member who couldn't tolerate it. The thought that it is now being used recreationally by drug users is horrible. Someone I know who was prescribed Seroquel by a psychiatrist for bipolar said it was like a chemical lobotomy.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    Way to have an important story with NO relevant details. Shame on you, CNN. You call yourself journalists? Hows about some details, instead of just fueling knee-jerk anti-corporate populism?

    April 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. manuallabor

    The pharmaceutical industry is just like Wall street,,,corrupt, They should be the focus of the war on drugs, they peddle the MOST dangerous drugs in the world, The FDA is no better , they approve things that are dangerous in the first place,,,things like Aspartame, originally formulated for ,,,CHEMICAL WARFARE.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    It seems like there are several misconceptions here.

    Revenue/Sales does not equate to profit. So even if they made $5 billion in revenue, their profits would be less (subtract raw materials costs, marketing expenses, salaries, other operating costs), So, the fine hurts them more than you would think.

    To those who would argue that these fines would be passed to consumer. This is a red herring argument. The purpose of a fine is that of a deterrent. Assuming the fine is of the appropriate magnitude, it is in the company's best interest to comply with regulations in order to maximize its profits.

    Doctors are at their own discretion to prescribe pharmaceuticals off-label (for a purpose other than what they are approved for by the FDA).

    However, pharmaceutical companies are only allowed to market their drugs based on those purposes approved for by FDA. They are not allowed to promote off-label uses. This is why AstraZeneca is in hot water. That and for something to do with "selected physicians who participated in clinical trials involving Seroquel."

    April 27, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jen

    I think it's grossly inappropriate for these drug companies to advertise to the general public period. Although I love seeing ads with side effects like "even death in some rare cases..." followed up by "Ask your doctor about...."

    Severe psychological disorders I can respect needs a pill or twol, but if your husband left you, your kids hate you, and you have no friends because you're such a drag, and you still can't figure out why your depression medication isn't working..., a shiny new pill might not be enough.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    The article gives barely any more information than is included in the headline. Way to go CNN, you've reached a new low in "journalism".

    April 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
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