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N.M. Says Drug Maker Ran Up Its Medicaid Bill

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - The state of New Mexico spent millions of dollars in Medicaid money on Seroquel prescriptions that weren't medically necessary, but that drug maker AstraZeneca promoted through deceptive advertising, the state claims in Santa Fe County Court. It also claims AstraZeneca hid the risks of the antipsychotic drug, forcing the state to pay even more money to treat illnesses caused by Seroquel.

State Attorney General Gary King says AstraZeneca actively marketed and promoted Seroquel for unapproved uses, including certain symptoms in children, sleep disorders, elderly dementia, depression and mood disorders.

Additionally, the drug maker allegedly paid doctors for getting the state to reimburse Seroquel prescriptions, pushed for the publication of articles touting the medical efficacy of Seroquel for off-label uses, and hid its financial ties to affiliates who promoted the drug.

"Defendants' schemes were highly successful," the lawsuit claims. "Upon information and belief, well over half of all dollars spent on Seroquel are spent on non-medically necessary uses."

In the name of profit, the defendant allegedly hid the serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions linked to Seroquel, including diabetes, pancreatitis, stroke, seizures, serious weight gain and heart failure.

The state seeks an injunction and requests the maximum penalties under the New Mexico False Claims Act and the New Mexico Medicaid Fraud Act. It also seeks $5,000 per violation of the Unfair Practices Act and $10,000 per violation of the New Mexico Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

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