The Parable of the Sower is one of the most famous parables used by Jesus. In this parable, he talks about a farmer who is sowing his fields, and the seeds fall on many different types of soil. Some fall on the path and are eaten by birds. Others fall on rocky places with little soil, where they sprout quickly but die in the sun because their roots are shallow. Still others fall in the thorns, where they are choked by the weeds. Finally, a few of the seeds fall in good soil and grow well and strong.
Drug prescriptions might be compared to a farmer sowing seed. The good soil is uses for a drug that are sufficiently safe and effective that the company feels confident and can get FDA approval. Seeds that fall in the weeds are treatments that a drug is effective for, but less effective than competing drugs that are already on the market. Those that fall on the path are conditions for which a drug is not effective at all. The worst, though, are the seeds that fall in the shallow soil. These are the conditions for which a drug is effective, but it has so many serious side effects that it ends up doing more harm than good, potentially leading to serious pharmaceutical injury and even the wrongful death of patients.
What constitutes “shallow soil” for any given drug depends on the severity of its side effects. For a drug with serious side effects, it is only suitable in the treatment of very serious conditions. Seroquel is one of those drugs with serious side effects that should only be used for serious conditions. It is technically approved for schizophrenia treatment and as an adjunct to other drugs in treating bipolar disorder, to be used only when these drugs do not work.
Unfortunately, earlier this year AstraZeneca–the maker of Seroquel–was forced to pay over $520 million for promoting off-label uses of the drug from 2001 through 2006. In addition, the company was charged with giving doctors kickbacks to prescribe the drug, including not just cash payments, but paying them to lecture about unapproved uses. In other words, the company was paying doctors to sow the seed in rocky soil, and if the plants would wither, what did it matter if they came up green, even for a little while?
In combination with this off-label promotion, the drug was discovered by the Veteran Affairs Department for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, sales of the drug to the Department of Defense and the VA soared by over 700%. Seroquel also became the 5th best-selling drug in the nation. As a result, we are now seeing more people suffering the drug’s dangerous side effect, including sudden death. Sudden death is a known side effect of the drug when used to treat elderly patients (which AstraZeneca also promoted), but it has begun to appear among veterans. Because the drug is often prescribed in combination with as many as dozens of others at the same time, it is hard to determine whether Seroquel is to blame for the deaths, but it is suspicious.
If you have suffered serious injury or lost a loved one due to off-label use of Seroquel, your injury might have been the result of illegal marketing, and you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. The pharmaceutical injury lawyers at Robert W. Kerpsack, CO. LPA stand ready to help you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.