Last Modified: Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 5:46 p.m.
The S.C. Attorney General's Office has secured a $26 million settlement against the multi-billion pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for violating the state Unfair Trade Practices Act by willfully misleading consumers on the potentially serious side effects of the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel.
The settlement order was filed Aug. 22 and is the third award, and final case against anti-psychotic drug manufacturers in South Carolina, that the Attorney General's Office has prosecuted since 2009. The cases began under former Attorney General Henry McMaster, who contracted with the Spartanburg law firm of Harrison, White, Smith and Coggins to prosecute the case on behalf of the state. The Spartanburg firm then contracted with two other firms in Columbia and Houston to assist with the litigation, which continued under Attorney General Alan Wilson.
In the lawsuit order, the company agreed to pay $26 million, which includes $20 million in damages and restitution to the state, $5 million in penalties and $1 million in trial costs. In 2010, AstraZeneca had $5.3 billion in worldwide sales including $3.75 billion in the U.S.
Bryan Stirling, deputy attorney general, said the settlement is fair to the state. A portion of the funds will go into the general fund, some will go to Medicaid and other funds to insurance companies.
Stirling said the Attorney General's Office sued on behalf of the state and the state agencies that paid additional funds because of the medication side effects.
AstraZeneca did not admit any wrongdoing or violation, but agreed to pay the sum to resolve the state action, according to the order signed by Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch."