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. Dave

    Seroquel is not FDA indicated for the use of insomnia but they were probably marketing it and recomending it for this use by it representatives because it means more sales of the drug. It has no implications for the people that are using it for this off-label use because we use medications ALL THE TIME for off-label purposes but by law pharm companies cannot market it for this use if the company has not been granted an FDA label for that purpose. Physicians love the drug for this purpose because it works but it costs an arm and a leg for insurance companies and the consumers because of its high cost.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chris

    Here's the NYT article:


    Someone said that Pfizer was 'too big' to fine but they've actually paid the largest fine in pharma history for Bextra..over 2 billion dollars.
    So all big pharma is guilty of trying to bypass safety in the name of gigantic profits. Happens in every industry but in THIS industry, people can die and suffer in the search for huge profits.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. found the answer


    Yahoo news has a full story...

    The drug is only approved to treat schizophrenia.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. db

    so, will there be a class action suite for people who took this drug?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Davernh

    OK Now who gets the fine money and why?

    April 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    "This Just In" Oh Really. This was reported in the NYT 10/29/09.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Seroquel is a great drug. It brought my wife's mother back to reality!!

    April 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Diana

    Hey wait a minute, my son is taking this medication.Does this mean he is in danger by taking something that is illegally allowed to us.?? Or is not supposed to be prescribed to anyone?? And not supposed to be out in the market. I'm a little confused here.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    @ found the answer

    Thats not the only indication:
    Labeled Indications: Treatment of schizophrenia; treatment of acute manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder (as monotherapy or in combination with lithium or divalproex); maintenance treatment of bipolar I disorder (in combination with lithium or divalproex); treatment of acute depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder; adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dorothea7

    500 mil is chump change for AstraZeneca, and they will make up for it by increasing prices on their meds which, like Seroquel, are already overpriced. A win for them, another loss for the patients who need thier meds. It's like we're being held financial hostage by these companies, who know that people really need what they make and charge them exorbitant prices. Now the SCOTUS has declared a corporation has the same rights as an individual, there's no doubt even less we can do about it.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. gar

    The drug war continues.. because big Pharma doesn't like the competition ;P

    April 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    @ Diana

    You guys are missing the point. Drugs are used off-label all the time. Drs will recomend seroquel for off-label use based of studies and what has been done in practice. This is OK but pharmaceutical companies CAN NOT market it for this use. There is a big difference beween marketing and using the drug based on what the dr feels is appropriate.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Andy

    My question is ?who gets the $500 million?"... Our govt. And what will they use it for? Healthcare for illigal immigrants.

    April 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. OpenYerEyes

    In the federal government's latest effort to crack down on Medicare fraudMedicare fraud Medifraud Medical practice Any unlawful act which results in the inappropriate billing of Medicare for services by a health care provider–eg, physicians, hospitals and affiliated providers. See Medicare.
    ..... Click the link for more information., pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $355 million in criminal and civil fines after pleadingAsking a court to grant relief. The formal presentation of claims and defenses by parties to a lawsuit. The specific papers by which the allegations of parties to a lawsuit are presented in proper form; specifically the complaint of a plaintiff and the answer of a defendant plus any
    ..... Click the link for more information. guilty to encouraging physicians to illegally request Medicare reimbursements.

    The U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware prosecuted for the government, alleging that from 1993 to 1996 the company induced doctors to bill Medicare for reimbursement Reimbursement

    Payment made to someone for out-of-pocket expenses has incurred. for the cancer drug Zoladex, even though they actually received it for free from AstraZeneca.

    FULL ARTICLE: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/AstraZeneca+fined+$355+million+as+U.S.+cracks+down+on+medicare...-a0107697604

    April 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Kevin

    Selling snake oil is not a privalege of the free market,

    April 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
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