March 10, 2011 / 4:19 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-AstraZeneca in $68.5 mln settlement over Seroquel

* Deal on top of $520 mln settlement with US government

* 37 US states plus District of Columbia in settlement

* 7 other US states still suing AstraZeneca (Adds AstraZeneca and New Jersey AG comment, background, Seroquel sales)

By Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, March 10 (Reuters) - British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) agreed to pay $68.5 million to resolve allegations by U.S. state regulators that its marketing of the multibillion-dollar antipsychotic drug Seroquel was deceptive.

The accord with 37 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., is the largest multi-state, consumer protection-based pharmaceutical settlement on record, said Paula Dow, attorney general of New Jersey, which is among the settling states.

Regulators accused AstraZeneca of unfair and misleading practices in marketing Seroquel for unapproved uses. They also said the company had failed to adequately disclose potential side effects and withheld negative information from scientific studies regarding Seroquel’s safety and effectiveness.

“This case sends a message that we take seriously the duty pharmaceutical companies have to supply clear, accurate and complete information about their products to health care providers, and to market their products without deception or misleading claims,” Dow said in a statement.

Seroquel had worldwide sales of $5.3 billion in 2010, including $3.75 billion in the United States.

AstraZeneca said it previously set aside funds in litigation reserves to cover the settlement and will not have to take an additional charge.

The multi-state settlement is separate from the $520 million AstraZeneca agreed to pay the U.S. government last year to settle similar allegations.

Seven states — Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Mississippi and Utah — did not join the settlement and are still suing the company.

“AstraZeneca believes that the remaining claims, which are in various stages of litigation, are without merit, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves,” company spokesman Tony Jewell said.

The multi-state settlement did not include an admission of guilt by the company.

“While we deny the allegations, we believe it is important to bring these matters to a close and move forward with our business of providing medicines to patients,” Jewell said.

The company had been accused of promoting Seroquel for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, such as Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, dementia and depression. While doctors are free to prescribe drugs to patients as they see fit, companies can only promote them for FDA-approved uses. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John Wallace)

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