AstraZeneca Settles Whistleblower Lawsuits
AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $110 million to settle a pair of whistleblower lawsuits in the US that accused it of fraudulently marketing Seroquel and Crestor to Texas Medicaid providers. The case, filed in 2013 by the Texas Attorney General, initially sought $5 billion.
The first and larger settlement of $90 million relates to allegations that the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker encouraged unapproved uses of its powerful antipsychotic drugs Seroquel IR and Seroquel XR from 2007 through 2010.
The top Texas legal authority alleged that AstraZeneca gave false information to the state’s Medicaid providers regarding Seroquel’s effectiveness for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), misrepresented the drug’s potent nature and side effects and illegally promoted its use by children under 18 years of age.
In addition, the drugmaker is said to have made illegal payments amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars to two former state hospital doctors to influence their use of the drug.
The smaller $20 million settlement covers allegations relating to anti-cholesterol drug Crestor. AstraZeneca is charged with illegally marketing the drug for treating atherosclerosis and making unsubstantiated claims regarding its effectiveness and safety.
“The allegations that led to this settlement are especially disturbing because the well-being of children and the integrity of the state hospital system were jeopardized,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. He added that the accusations came at a time when AstraZeneca was under the strict obligations of a 2010 federal “corporate integrity agreement” resulting from prior allegations of Medicaid fraud.
AstraZeneca has denied any wrongdoing. “It is in the best interests of the company to resolve these matters and to move forward with our business of discovering and developing important, life-changing medicines while avoiding the delay, uncertainty, and expense of protracted litigation,” the drugmaker said in a statement.
Of the $110 million settlement, about $45.8 million will go to the state of Texas, $32.8 million will go to the US government, with the remaining $31.4 million going to the six whistleblowers.
According to Bloomberg news agency, AstraZeneca has already paid more than $1.3 billion to settle Seroquel-related lawsuits and is facing multiple other federal lawsuits related to the drug.