DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that Colorado has received $2 million as part an agreement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals to settle allegations that the company improperly promoted the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. Colorado’s $2 million is part of settlement to resolve three federal whistleblower lawsuits as well as other claims from various states and the federal government. UK-based AstraZeneca will pay a total of $520 million in damages and penalties to compensate Medicaid and other federal programs for harm suffered as a result of its conduct.
“Colorado’s Medicaid program provides essential health services to the neediest among us,” Suthers said. “Our work to recover these funds for the state of Colorado underlines the work we do every day to police Medicaid providers. We will continue to work with our partner states and the federal government to enforce this settlement and pursue any pharmaceutical company, health care provider or individual that tries to exploit Colorado’s Medicaid program.”
The government alleged that AstraZeneca promoted the sale and use of Seroquel, an “atypical antipsychotic” drug, for certain uses not approved by the federal government. It generally is not illegal for doctors to prescribe drugs for off-label uses, but it is illegal for drug manufacturers to market drugs for non-FDA-approved uses. State Medicaid programs generally do not pay for drugs prescribed for off-label purposes.
The federal government and states alleged that AstraZeneca promoted the sale and use of Seroquel not only to psychiatrists, but also to primary care physicians and other health professionals for unapproved uses, including the treatment of aggression, Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sleeplessness. The states and federal government also claimed that AstraZeneca made illegal payments to physicians, such as picking up the tab for travel to resorts and other locations to act as advisers, author articles and conduct studies for unapproved uses of the drug.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit facilitated Colorado’s portion of the settlement. In addition to the monetary recovery, AstraZeneca will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the federal government, under which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will closely monitor the company’s future marketing and sales practices.