As a pharmaceutical liability attorney, I was interested in a report that Astra Zeneca has settled 17,500 lawsuits at a cost of $198 million over complaints that it failed to warn patients that its drug Seroquel (quetiapine) could cause diabetes in some users. Astra Zeneca faces 26,000 lawsuits over this issue, and agreed to pay $520 million after federal investigations into its illegal marketing of Seroquel. Seroquel is the company’s second-highest-selling drug, after Nexium (esomeprazole), a treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease. When a drug is used by as many patients as Seroquel is, a large number of patients will experience the many side effects that the drug can cause, so it’s especially important for drug companies to properly communicate the drug’s risks to the public, the FDA, and medical professionals.
Yet Astra Zeneca seems to have been eager to push sales of Seroquel higher and higher, perhaps recklessly. Seroquel is approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and is prescribed off-label for other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, restless legs syndrome, autism, alcoholism, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, sleep disorders and anxiety disorders. In April, government officials said that Astra Zeneca had paid illegal kickbacks to doctors to promote unapproved uses of the drug by children, the elderly, veterans and prisoners. Antipsychotics like Seroquel account for a big portion of Medicaid drug costs, and Seroquel is the fifth-best-selling drug in the world — it brought in $4.9 billion in sales in 2009.
Clearly, Seroquel generates a lot of money for Astra Zeneca. It’s unfortunate that it has done so at the expense of some patients, who allege that they developed diabetes because they were taking this medication. Diabetes isn’t a side effect that goes away when a patient stops taking a drug that causes it — it’s a lifelong condition that requires constant attention and can have serious consequences if it’s not treated. Diabetics must watch their diet and exercise, and take medications to control their blood sugar, or risk complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and limb amputations. This means that patients who became diabetic after taking Seroquel had to add all these concerns to their existing medical issues. And since Seroquel has been used heavily among Medicaid patients, problems with Seroquel affect many who have the fewest financial resources to deal with them.
This is why, as a defective medication lawyer, I am glad to see that patients who became diabetic from taking Seroquel have stood up for themselves and gotten financial compensation from the company that allegedly caused their illness. Patients who have been harmed by dangerous or defective medications can and should recover compensation from the drug manufacturer whose product harmed them. Drug manufacturers are required to warn consumers of their products’ risks, and if they fail to do so, the law allows consumers harmed by the defective drugs to sue. The patient can require the manufacturer to pay for their medical costs, lost wages from missing work or being unable to work, and diminished quality of life, which the manufacturer ultimately caused. Consumers who trust that a medication is safe and that it will help them should not have to bear all the consequences alone if they find out that they were wrong — and that the manufacturer knew about it.
The dangerous medication attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe help people who have been hurt by over-the-counter and prescription drugs. If you or someone you love has been seriously harmed by a medication, we can advise you about making the company that caused your injury pay for medical expenses, lost wages, permanent injuries and pain and suffering. If you have been hurt by a defective drug, please call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a consultation, toll-free, at 1-877-678-3400 or contact us through our website.