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. Brains

    Oh but Phizer can do the same thing and get off scott free because they are "too big too nail" says the Feds. This just proves the hypocrisy of the U.S. legal system.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Psych advice

    No Seroquel is still very safe to take

    April 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amazed

    I'm amazed that someone wrote the big companies are all about profit. Excuse me, is there a business out there that isn't concerned about profit. And, tell me, what do you know about all the testing these companies have to conduct before a drug is allowed to be sold and it is not only the FDA that reviews the data. Come on people, let your arguments be better than the ones I've read. This was about illegal marketing not about the drug! DUH!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JW

    Darn those evil Pharma companies, your right all they do is stick it to us and provide us nothing.

    Tell me that the next time you need major surgery and you need anesthetia, antibiotics and pain management. Or when you have a child that has polio, or catches pertussus. Or when your fat lazy butt has blocked arteries and a cholesterol value over 600 and needs stents implanted to keep you alive and drugs to control your levels so that you can continue to eat 16 lbs of fried chicken a week. Its easy to curse their name when you dont need them.

    and by the way, of course their goal is to make money and to make money they have to be inovative, have to find new therapies, investing billions and billions in research. Now, they certainly need to be policed and heavily regulated and at times the step over the line but lets get real. Life with out pharma products would be a return to the early 20th century when the infant mortality rate was double digits and people lived to be 50.. maybe.

    Get off your high horse and help find the middle ground.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael Daily

    Give these guys something that will really hurt – revoke their patent on the drug. Then they can't treat these fines as part of the cost of doing business, and in turn past that cost on to their consumers.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bruce H

    The cost of this fine will be one of the anticipated business expenses for which the drug company probably has advertising costs built into its bottom line – the fine won't hurt the company one iota.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Newsconsumer

    I agree with some of the other posters: If you're going to post a story, then please have some details. I understand this is breaking news, so CNN may not have a lot of information at the moment. I also understand the desire for a news organization to be the first to report something. I'm okay with the headline, but then call it a headline, and add a "Details to follow shortly, as we are able to get information" announcement. As it is posted, the story is useless. Readers can't make any sound judgments or decisions based on this limited information. All it is is a "heads up" that a financial judgment was made against the company.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nurse in PA

    I am so glad this happened. Seroquel is not a good drug.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fred s

    I'm sorry, did it say the company will pay the fine. I think the consumer will be paying the fine in the form of increased prices.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jerry Stark

    well well .Lets panish more US companies/manufactories so more Americans will be out of work.! I am sure , the money from fine will be well spend in helping Iraq !

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

    FYI: To clarify: The illegal marketing was almost certainly related to promoting the drug for use for reasons which are not FDA approved. Note: IT IS LEGAL for doctors to use it for other indications (ie sleep) but it is NOT legal for the company to pay doctors and promote advertisements for indications for which the drug is not approved. The FDA approves drugs specifically based on risk-benefit ratios for its approved indications and therefore it is not permitted to encourage the drug's use for other reasons unless you are a physician who has the opportunity to make the risk benefit decision for a specific patient.
    Also, yes it is totally sick that the fine was 1/10th of the recent profit of the drug, and is why drug makers don't feel the need to follow the law on this specific matter– the money is already made.
    PLEASE call your legislator and encourage them to put greater restrictions on advertising and education for pharmaceutical products and
    to ALLOW Health and Human Services to NEGOTIATE for drug prices (so we can pay 1/4 as much like they do in Canada– note: drug companies do not want this to happen!)
    Julia Skapik, MD, MPH
    National Physicians Alliance http://www.npa.org

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

    As Paul Harvey used to say, "And now for the rest of the story ..."

    The company allegedly misled doctors and patients about the drug's safety, downplaying known risks of weight gain and diabetes; AstraZeneca has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

    Had to go to NYT site to find out.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rich

    the poles are dead, this drug did not work, the voices won again. pay back the money you frauds. how can we say this to them? our survival could depend on the success of these drugs.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dina



    April 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Susanne

    OK CNN....... Where is the story??
    When I was on this for a sleeping aid I was rushed to the ER 3 times for heart attack sypmtoms! I have early stages of cadaracs on my eyes and not even 50!
    Great drug huh? All I signed up for was sleep! Now what else will happen to me?
    All they get is a fine and I fall apart.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
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