WASHINGTON Feb 27 AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.L)
failed to warn physicians and patients about risks associated
with its widely used schizophrenia drug Seroquel, plaintiffs'
attorneys said on Friday.
The lawyers said documents that were just unsealed in a
U.S. federal court case showed AstraZeneca knew about the risk
of weight gain and diabetes in 2000.
The company "not only failed to warn physicians and
patients about the risk of diabetes but they also marketed them
in a way that represented that there was no risk," Ed Blizzard,
an attorney at Blizzard, McCarthy & Nabers in Houston, told
reporters during a conference call.
Blizzard's firm is representing patients who say they
developed diabetes from taking Seroquel, part of the family of
drugs known as atypical antipsychotics.
The attorney said internal e-mails and other documents
showed AstraZeneca officials had evidence of the drug's link to
weight gain but used promotions suggesting Seroquel had no
effect on weight or could lead to weight loss. Weight gain is a
risk factor for development of diabetes.
Seroquel is AstraZeneca's second-biggest selling drug with
$4.5 billion in sales in 2008.
"AstraZeneca has studied Seroquel extensively and shared
all relevant and required data with the FDA," company spokesman
Tony Jewell said.
The drugmaker "believes that the Seroquel label has always
provided adequate and appropriate information and warnings
based on available data," he added.
The first two cases alleging harm from Seroquel have been
thrown out of court for insufficient evidence, Jewell said.
About 9,000 lawsuits involving 15,000 patients have been
filed, and many have been consolidated in Florida. One case is
scheduled to go to trial in Delaware on June 22.
AstraZeneca recently changed Seroquel's label to make some
of the warning information more prominent, Jewell said.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine, editing by Bernard Orr)