August 9, 2010 / 6:34 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Astra pays $198 mln to settle U.S. Seroquel claims

* Some 17,500 claims settled in U.S. for $198 million

* Reiterates forecast for 2010 “core” earnings per share

* Around 2,900 additional cases have been dismissed

* Shares up 0.6 pct, in line with European sector

(Adds share price, average payout figure, quote)

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has agreed to pay $198 million to settle some 17,500 U.S. personal injury claims related to its schizophrenia and bipolar disorder drug Seroquel, the company said on Monday.

The top-selling medicine, which had worldwide sales of $4.9 billion in 2009, accounting for 15 percent of group revenue, has been subject to long-running legal claims after being linked to an increased risk of diabetes.

The average payout of $11,300 per claim is modest by comparison with some past medicine settlements and AstraZeneca investors took the news in their stride, with the stock up 0.6 percent by 0740 GMT, in line with the European sector .SXDP.

A further 2,900 cases have been dismissed.

The group did not have a provision for Seroquel settlements as of June 30 but it said the agreements would not affect its 2010 outlook for “core” earnings, since any provision would be disregarded in calculating this underlying measure of profit.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker raised its forecast for core earnings per share, which excludes certain restructuring costs and charges, by 30 cents to $6.35 to $6.65 last month after reporting strong second-quarter results. [ID:nLDE66R1OD]

News of the settlements was no great surprise since sources familiar with the situation had said last week that some 5,500 claims had been settled, at that stage, for $55 million as part of an ongoing process of mediation. [ID:nLDE6731YW]

“We believe it was in the best interest of the company to explore resolving these cases through the mediation process,” said company spokeswoman Abigail Baron.

“We remain committed to a strong defence effort, but will also continue to participate in good faith in court-ordered mediation.” (Editing by Louise Heavens and Erica Billingham)

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