The title of this blog sounds boring. It’s like flipping through the channels and seeing an ad for a “Man Groomer”. It just sounds scary and who really wants to hear about someone shaving their back.
Anyway, since we do Pharmaceutical litigation, it did grab my attention that Astra Zeneca just paid a $520 million dollar fine for illegal marketing of an anti-psychotic drug called Seroquel. Now, before you tune away, I wanted to just outline a few curious things about this settlement and why there is such a large fine for marketing.
Some of the false marketing just didn’t make sense. When I read some of the company comments about the settlement, I can’t help but shake my head at, “While we deny the allegations, it is in the best interests of AstraZeneca to resolve these matters and to move forward with our business of discovering and developing important, life changing medicines”.
This reminds me of the recent handicapped-accessible water fountain that was installed in a Courthouse, as a result of a settlement with the US Justice Department, over deficiencies in complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The curious thing is where it was installed: on the second floor of the courthouse, which is only accessible by a staircase. In that instance, the spokesman for the Courthouse, told the reporter that the fountain is not just for those who have difficulty walking, and that this fountain really is better equipped for those who have problems bending, twisting or gripping. I love a good quote that just makes me shake my head.
Anyway, back to the drug company settlement where they just wanted to put it behind them so they move forward and do more good. Justice Department officials allege that Seroquel was also being marketed for Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, depression, post traumatic stress, depression, bipolar maintenance and sleeplessness. Nothing in there, though, that would make the “Man Groomer” obsolete.
It was also alleged that this Drug company had violated the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute by offering and paying illegal remuneration to doctors it recruited, to advise the firm about marketing for unapproved uses beyond the FDA recognized narrow approval. Basically, that’s code for “Doctor, if you prescribe this for a lot of different reasons, then we will pay you 50K a year as a consultant and fly you to Hawaii to discuss your thoughts on your thousands of prescriptions for the year”.
This investigation was triggered by a “whistle-blower”. It usually takes someone on the inside to find out that this kind of fraud is going on. As a result, under the Whistleblower statute, you get a portion of the recovery for the bad conduct. In this instance, the share paid was $45 million, a tidy sum for helping to find the truth and stopping fraud. The fraud was created as a result of this medication being paid by insurance such as medicare and that goes into the extent of the fine. Tax payers were really paying for this.
Despite the boring title, I had to pass on the full story, even if you had seen a bit about the large fine. Now, you can go back to your regularly scheduled programming!