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AstraZeneca settles kickback, marketing case

Wednesday, April 28, 2010; A12

PHARMACEUTICAL

AstraZeneca settles kickback, marketing case

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca will pay $520 million to settle allegations that the company illegally marketed an antipsychotic drug and paid kickbacks to physicians, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The settlement centers on the company's efforts to promote Seroquel, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved to treat some mental disorders. The government alleges that AstraZeneca aggressively marketed the drug for unapproved diseases -- such as Alzheimer's and anxiety -- to physicians, who then put patients at risk by prescribing it.

The Justice Department also contends that the company violated the federal anti-kickback statute by making illegal payments to physicians, who allegedly presented themselves as authors of Seroquel articles produced by the drug maker.

The civil settlement was the latest step in an Obama administration crackdown on health-care fraud.

Glenn Engelmann, the company's U.S. general counsel, said AstraZeneca denies the allegations but "takes its obligations very seriously under its agreements with the government."

-- Jerry Markon

Supreme Court: Investors can sue over Vioxx

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that investors who lost millions of dollars betting on the blockbuster drug Vioxx can sue Merck, the drugmaker, over whether it provided enough information about the painkiller's risks before it was pulled from the market.

The high court agreed with a federal appeals court's decision to allow a class-action securities lawsuit, which is now set to advance in New Jersey federal court.

Merck pulled the drug in 2004 because it doubled the risks of heart attack, stroke and death. Shareholders lost a combined $28 billion overnight afterward.

-- Associated Press

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