Schizophrenia is a difficult disorder to treat, and there are two sets of medications for it. When the older set (e.g., Haldol) fail to be effective, there is a newer set called Atypical Anti-psychotics which usually does a better job.

Three of the newer set are Clozaril, made by Novartis, Risperdal made by Eli Lilly & Co., and Zyprexa, also made by Eli Lilly more recently. Then along came Seroquel in 1997. It was made by Zeneca Group, which is the pharmaceutical and biosciences section of a British firm, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI).

In 1999, Zeneca merged with a Swedish company called Astra. The company named itself AstraZeneca and placed its new headquarters in Fairfax, Delaware. Seroquel, (generic name Quetiapine), is AstraZeneca’s #2 drug. Seroquel sales have been huge. Between 2004 and 2007, they almost doubled, to more than $4 billion.

Off-Label Marketing

All these atypical anti-psychotics have the side effects of causing:

  • Weight gain
  • Increased blood sugar level
  • Diabetes

Three states have sued AstraZeneca for downplaying these side effects while promoting Seroquel among physicians for off-label use. The three states are Pennsylvania, Montana, and Arkansas. Among the allegations made in these lawsuits are that AstraZeneca:

  • Somehow manipulated the Seroquel trials done for FDA approval, so as to prevent any detection of diabetes;
  • Paid some physicians to attach their names to previously-written journal articles about off-label uses; and
  • Targeted medical centers that treat children and the elderly; which thereby
  • Defrauded Medicaid.

The claim is that AstraZeneca did these things to increase Seroquel sales to a blockbuster level.

Off-label use means uses not approved by the FDA. These are perfectly legal when decided upon by a treating physician. However, it is not legal to market a drug for off-label uses. Seroquel is FDA-approved for treating adult schizophrenia, but not for treating sleep disorders, children, or seniors with dementia. These are some of the off-label uses that AstraZeneca has promoted.

Delaware and several other states are now investigating AstraZeneca. More than 8,500 personal injury suits have been filed against the company over Seroquel. There may well be class action suits in the future.

If you have a child or an elderly loved one who has been given Seroquel, you might want to talk to their doctor about the side effects. If you have been harmed by any defective or improperly marketed drug, please call or email us to set up a free consultation.