Denied Drug's Link to Diabetes for Years After Admitting Link to Japanese
Drug giant AstraZeneca attempted to obscure the connection between one of
its blockbuster drugs and diabetes risk for years after it knew of the problem,
according to documents recently unsealed as part of lawsuits against the
More than 15,000
patients have sought damages from the company, alleging that they were harmed
by side effects from its atypical antipsychotic Seroquel. According to the
plaintiffs, AstraZeneca deliberately hid information linking the drug to
an increased risk of weight gain and diabetes. The lawsuits have been consolidated
into a single case for the purpose of pre-trial proceedings.
unsealed documents include notes from a meeting between salesperson Nancy
White and a doctor in July 2006, during which the doctor said that his patients
were expressing concern about Seroquel's links to diabetes. White reported
telling the doctor that "there has been no causative effect" proven
between the drug and the disease.
Yet in November
2002, AstraZeneca had issued a warning to doctors in Japan that due to dozens
of reports linking Seroquel to diabetes, "causality with the drug could
not be ruled out." The company cautioned doctors not to prescribe the
drugs to diabetics and to encourage all Seroquel patients to monitor their
blood sugar. Just over a year later, the company issued a similar warning
to doctors in the United States.
clear that if a drug poses a diabetes risk in one country, it poses that
risk in others," said psychiatrist Dan Carlat of Tufts University.
"I don't think it's ethical to warn doctors in Japan about this drug
and then downplay or ignore the risk in the U.S."
reveal that the company trained its salespeople to dodge questions about
the connection between Seroquel and weight gain.
Seroquel remains AstraZeneca's second-best selling drug, pulling in $4.45
billion in 2008.
by David Gutierrez,
Sources for this story include: