AstraZeneca to pay $520 million fine

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has agreed to pay a $520 million fine to settle claims that it illegally marketed its antipsychotic drug Seroquel, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

AstraZeneca is charged with fraudulently marketing Seroquel and promoting the drug to patients and physicians for uses that the Food and Drug Administration never approved, Attorney General Eric Holder said at Tuesday's settlement announcement.

The pharmaceutical giant has also been accused of violating anti-kickback laws by paying doctors to refer the drug to patients, while at the same time bringing in money from government health care programs.

"According to the settlement, AstraZeneca's illegal marketing of the drug led to millions of dollars in false claims against federal and state programs like Medicare and Medicaid," Holder said.

The settlement fine of $520 million, which will be paid to federal and state taxpayers, is the most money ever paid by a business in a civil-only settlement for charges of off-label marketing, the Department of Justice said.

"These were not victimless crimes," said Holder. "Illegal acts by pharmaceutical companies and false claims against Medicare and Medicaid can put the public health at risk, corrupt medical decisions by health care providers, and take billions of dollars directly out of taxpayers' pockets."

AstraZeneca said Tuesday that it denies the government's accusations.

"While we deny the allegations, AstraZeneca takes its obligations very seriously under its agreements with the government," Glenn Engelmann, U.S. general counsel for AstraZeneca, said in an e-mailed statement.

On top of the $520 million fine, AstraZeneca will enter into a five-year compliance agreement with the Department of Justice, the pharmaceutical company said. To top of page

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