Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Astra Zeneca Pays $520 Million Fine for Seroquel Off Label Marketing

AstraZeneca has finalized its agreement with US federal and state entities, under which it will pay $520 million to resolve allegations that it marketed the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel for off-label uses.

The US contends that the company promoted the drug to doctors who do not typically treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, for which the drug is FDA approved. Instead, the drug was marketed to physicians who treat the elderly, primary care physicians, pediatric and adolescent physicians, and in long-term care facilities and prisons for the treatment of unapproved uses including Alzheimer's disease, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.

As part of the settlement, AstraZeneca has also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the US Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

From the DOJ Press Statement:

AstraZeneca LP and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP will pay $520 million to resolve allegations that AstraZeneca illegally marketed the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services’ Health Care Fraud Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) announced today. Such unapproved uses are also known as "off-label" uses because they are not included in the drug’s FDA approved product label.

The Wilmington, Del.-based company signed a civil settlement to resolve allegations that by marketing Seroquel for unapproved uses, the company caused false claims for payment to be submitted to federal insurance programs including Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE programs, and to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and the Bureau of Prisons.

Under the terms of the settlement, the federal government will receive $301,907,007 from the civil settlement, and the state Medicaid programs and the District of Columbia will share up to $218,092,993 of the civil settlement, depending on the number of states that participate in the settlement. The allegations were originally brought in a lawsuit under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act and various state False Claims Act statutes.

Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a company must specify the intended uses of a product in its new drug application to the FDA. Before approving a drug, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for the use proposed by the company. Once approved, the drug may not be marketed or promoted for off-label uses.

The FDA originally approved Seroquel in September 1997 for the treatment of manifestations of psychotic disorders. In September 2000, FDA proposed narrowing the approval for Seroquel to the short term treatment of schizophrenia only. In January 2004, the FDA approved Seroquel for short term treatment of acute manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder (bipolar mania). In October 2006, the FDA approved Seroquel for bipolar depression.

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