Seroquel (whose generic name is quetiapine fumarate) is an antipsychotic drug used to treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In the past few years, Seroquel has been the subject of more than 25,000 product liability lawsuits, including one brought by federal prosecutors. The federal litigation, and other lawsuits, alleged that AstraZeneca (Seroquel's manufacturer):
In April 2010, AstraZeneca paid $520 million to settle the federal government lawsuit. Thousands of other civil lawsuits continue on. Read on to learn about Seroquel and the claims made in these product liability lawsuits. (To learn about safety and legal issues related to other antipsychotic drugs, see Nolo's article Product Liability Claims Involving Antipsychotic Drugs.)
Seroquel is a prescription drug manufactured by AstraZeneca. Its active ingredient is quetiapine fumarate. The FDA has approved Seroquel to treat the following disorders.
Like other antipsychotic medications, Seroquel has numerous side effects. Some of the more serious effects include the following:
Typically, plaintiffs or government agencies bring defective product liability claims in lawsuits against drug manufacturers. In a product liability claim, plaintiffs argue that they were injured by a pharmaceutical drug because:
In the federal litigation, the government focused on two aspects of AstraZeneca's failure to warn consumers and doctors about the dangers of the drug: marketing for unapproved uses of Seroquel and failure to disclose dangerous side effects. Let's take a closer look at these allegations.
The federal lawsuit alleged that AstraZeneca aggressively marketed Seroquel for uses not approved by the FDA, including treating:
According to the lawsuit, AstraZeneca engaged in an illegal scheme to pay doctors to promote these off-market uses of Seroquel. Allegedly, AstraZeneca paid doctors to:
The federal lawsuit -- and numerous other civil lawsuits -- also alleged that AstraZeneca did not adequately warn prescribing doctors and consumers of the more serious risks associated with Seroquel use, including:
Drug manufacturers almost always mount a vigorous defense when sued under product liability laws. Often, they challenge plaintiffs' claims by arguing that (1) the drug is not dangerous and (2) plaintiffs' injuries were caused by something other than the drug.
For example, in Seroquel litigation, AstraZeneca has argued that Seroquel does not increase the risk of diabetes. Instead, says AstraZeneca, Seroquel users with diabetes either already had diabetes before taking the drug or had other health conditions that put them at high risk for developing diabetes.
The legal and medical issues in Seroquel cases are usually sophisticated and complex. Depending on your case, you may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in products liability litigation (or, even better, one who has experience with cases involving Seroquel or other antipsychotic medications). You may also consider joining an existing class action lawsuit, if there is one. (To learn more about class actions, see Nolo's article Product Liability Claims Involving Pharmaceutical Drugs.)
For help on choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer.