COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A Naval Chief Petty Officer soon to leave the United States for his fourth tour of duty in Iraq is suing AstraZeneca, claiming it knew about potentially fatal side effects of its cholesterol drug Crestor, but failed to warn the public. The plaintiff says his 54-year-old mother’s death certificate listed her cause of death as “Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, and Stevens Johnson Syndrome suspected due to Crestor.”
Matthew Burton was in Iraq on one of his previous tours of duty in August 2005 when he received word through the Red Cross that his mother was fatally ill, according to the complaint in Richland County Court.
Burton says that there is “no warning, suggestion of implication” on Crestor’s label to inform people that it is associated with or causes toxic epidermal necrolysis or Stevens Johnson syndrome – but that AstraZeneca knew of many such cases.
He claims the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company willfully misled and failed to warn users of Crestor of the serious dangers that might result from consuming the product.
AstraZeneca could have amended its labeling under federal law to add additional warnings, but failed to do so, the complaint said. Without those changes to Crestor’s Physician’s Desk Reference labeling, Burton’s prescribing physician was deprived of the ability to fully assess the risks of having her take the medication, the complaint states.
The lawsuit comes as sales of Crestor are increasing, just weeks after AstraZeneca announced it had entered into a partnership with Abbott Labs to promote the drug in the U.S.
Crestor is prescribed by doctors to lower low-density lipoproteins, the so-called “bad cholesterol.” It competes with Lipitor in the cholesterol-lowering statin class of medications. After a few years of flat sales, attributed to Lipitor and to the introduction of cheaper generics, sales of Crestor have shown renewed strength this year, topping $768 million in the U.S. through the second quarter.
Attorney Mark Clore of Charleston filed the lawsuit, with attorneys from Texas, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana asking to participate pro hac vice.