Last week, Baron & Budd’s lawyers secured $90 million from AstraZeneca in a resolution that the pharmaceutical company targeted the Texas Medicaid system with a fraudulent marketing scheme for its expensive and powerful atypical antipsychotic drugs Seroquel IR and Seroquel XR from 2007 through 2010. The suit was brought by whistleblowers and the State of Texas under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act (“TMFPA”).
In their suit, the state and former AstraZeneca sales specialists Allison Zayas and Tracy Miksell-Branch say the company misrepresented the efficacy of Seroquel IR and Seroquel XR, downplayed the drugs’ side effects and promoted their unauthorized use.
This is separate from the $20 million settlement Leaders In The Law recently reported, which resolved allegations that AstraZeneca misrepresented and concealed information about the safety, efficacy and appropriate use of its drug Crestor to the Texas Medicaid system. AstraZeneca has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.
Seroquel is an antipsychotic drug approved by the FDA for use by adults in 1997. Due to Seroquel’s severe side-effects, the FDA limited its use to short-term treatment for the more severe end of the spectrum of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The Texas Attorney General alleged that the company gave false information to Texas Medicaid providers regarding Seroquel’s efficacy for uses not approved by the FDA, misrepresented the drug’s potent nature and side effects, illegally promoted its use by children under the age of 18, and improperly influenced and exploited Texas state officials to facilitate the fraud.
“Children who are removed from abusive or neglectful homes and placed in foster care often experience some degree of trauma, which can lead to depression,” said Baron & Budd shareholder Scott Simmer, who represented an AstraZeneca sales representative who was the first whistleblower to come forward in the case. “It’s really appalling to think that a drug company could take advantage of vulnerable children to sell a drug that they should not be taking.”
Leaders In The Law covered another recent Baron & Budd settlement against Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., which you can read about here.