Franklin Co. judge awards $5.3 million in penalties against AstraZeneca

ctruman@herald-leader.comJanuary 28, 2010 

Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden has awarded $5.3 million in civil penalties against the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for violating Kentucky's Consumer Protection Act.

In October, a jury handed down a $14.7 million verdict against AstraZeneca for defrauding the Medicaid program and Kentucky consumers by inflating prices of its prescription drugs.

Crittenden found 5,391 violations of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act and awarded $1,000 per violation for a total civil penalty of $5,391,000.

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, is one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical firms.

Some of the AstraZeneca drugs included in the Kentucky suit include Seroquel for psychiatric conditions, Crestor for cholesterol, Nexium and Prilosec for digestive disorders, and Zestril for high blood pressure.

The state Office of the Attorney General has filed suit against 47 of the nation's pharmaceutical manufacturers, alleging they violated Kentucky's Medicaid Fraud and Consumer Protection statutes and engaged in false and deceptive advertising, according to a news release from Attorney General Jack Conway.

Tony Jewell, a spokesman for AstraZeneca, said in a statement that the company "disagrees with the judge's decision to award penalties, and we are considering our options, including appeal. We continue to believe that the commonwealth's claims against the company are unfounded."

In October, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned a lower court's $160 million judgment against AstraZeneca in a similar case.

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