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. Carol Wright

    At first I accepted when the doctors at KP Rx'd a very small dose of this Rx for my mother, who is 90 with Alzheimer's. The doctor did it to help prevent delusional behavior. Then I noticed that the drug was being Advertised on TV, and the first warning was to prohibit Rxing to elderly dementia patients. Mom, even on extremely low dose, started acting weird a week or so later. So what to do? Should she take even more of the drug, more frequently. Should I drug her into a stupor or what.

    The side effects included contortions of her face and tongue, choking, an almost total body rigor mortis, and a snappiness, I found later was called "Seroquel Anger." I read online that people with biopolar would take 1300 and Mom's dose was less than 25. Seems like such a small dose, but it really walloped her. For awhile it did calm her delusions and anxiety, then it backfired. (She is now on a very low dose of Ativan, and that works for her).

    I am so thankful the TV ads ran with that warning, or I would not have researched it. Her primary care doctor was immediately agreeable to stopping this drug. Happy we got off it. If I hadn't researched it, I probably would have increased her dosage to stop her delusions. How many others are faced with the same choice...oh , it must not be working well enough. Take some MORE.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Daniel

    I take this medication, and have found it very beneficial. Will this affect the people who rely on this drug for improved lifestyle?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dig Dug

    Put in their place?!?! $520 million I'm sure is no big deal to a drug company. These companies like any big corporation has only one thing in mind and that's profit. Not health. PROFIT!!!

    Though I truly believe these companies should be put in their place, it is up to individuals to take their health into their own hands. People need to stop believing that a pill will solve all their problems. Medications do have their place, but people rely too much on pills instead of healthy living.

    You should read the article on CNN "Feds found Pfizer too big to nail". I'm surprised this company got fined at all.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rmb

    the drug companies are as evil as the devil himself. The 520 mil is significant. . . and will sting a bit but is only a fraction of what they made illegally marketing the drug. The system needs an overhaul. When the FDA relies on the very drug companies that created the drug for information that ultimately determiones the drug approval (Fox guarding the henhouse) it's no wonder we have so many problems with so many drugs. . . after its approval. The money is so huge for a "wonder drug" that such trivial details like honesty, accurate and thorough testing, and independent study are cast asside.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. just a girl

    Quite honestly, I hope that this is just the beginning of someone FINALLY paying attention to the massive amount of corruption within the pharmacutical companies.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jeff

    520M! Wow. There has to be more of a story here. CNN?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nicholas Byrd

    BREAKING NEWS: This news broke back in October 2009!
    Way to stay on the ball CNN!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bill

    Ya- 1.5 weeks worth of revenue as a fine, sending a major message- (sarcasm)

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. pharm student

    This is because its used for sleep but only FDA-approved for psychosis.


    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cel

    it's all about the $$$$$$$$$$..................nobody does any jail time, nobody gets any real punishment and the company admits no wrong doing. What a crock.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cristina

    What does this mean? Please explain a little more. My 10 year old son takes this!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Crystal

    Where in the world is the rest of this story? I was on Seroquel, and was put in the hospital over it, it is a nasty drug, at least for me it was. I am sure some people it works for just fine, but I never should have been put on the medication in the first place. I would like to know more about this story!!!!!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Donna

    I was wondering,Who gets the money from the fines? Where does it go?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. faye granata

    I was on this drug,it had the worst side affects,I wish some of the money would go to the people who took it

    April 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    They marketed the drug for uses that the FDA didn't approve it for. Doctors prescribe drugs all the time for what is called an 'off-label use', but the drug cos. cannot put these uses in their ads. I believe the problem is stemming from the Seroquel ads promoting it as a sleep aid, as it is approved only to treat schizophrenia.

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