Provost Umphrey attorney launches crusade against AstraZeneca

David Yates Feb. 7, 2008, 5:28am

Just like the antipsychotic drugs before it, AstraZeneca's Seroquel may be linked to weight gain and diabetes, which is apparently reason enough for a Texas plaintiff's attorney to launch a crusade against the medication manufacturer.

Provost Umphrey attorney Christopher Kirchmer filed five separate federal lawsuits against AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals in the U.S. District Court, Beaumont Division and one additional suit in the Lufkin Division on Jan. 28.

The wording in the suits is nearly identical, only the names change, which include Hector Garcia, Gerald Gitschier, Ruth Sills, Lois Moore, Lori Dahlberg and Patsy Hall.

Although no prescription drug is without risk and people with risk factors such as obesity or a family history of diabetes are advised to ask a doctor to check their blood sugar before starting Seroquel, attorney Kirchmer is claiming AstraZeneca "fraudulently concealed" its drug's "lethal side effects."

"AstraZeneca intentionally lulled and prevented plaintiff(s) from discovering the existence of (Seroquel's side effects) through its fraudulent … suppression of the dangers associated with its drug," the suits stated. "Plaintiffs therefore have been kept in ignorance."

According to the Seroquel Web site, high blood sugar and diabetes have been reported with Seroquel and medicines like it. "If you have diabetes or risk factors such as obesity or a family history of diabetes, ask your doctor about checking your blood sugar before starting Seroquel."

Seroquel has been approved for the treatment of schizophrenia since 1997 and for mania associated with bipolar disorder since 2003. Seroquel is available in over 80 countries worldwide, including the U.S. and across Europe. Seroquel is now the first and only single medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat both depressive and manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, stated the AstraZeneca Web site.

"Seroquel works by targeting the specific areas of the brain (pre-frontal cortex, striatum, limbic system and anterior pituitary) that are affected by the illness and helps to regulate the actions of the neurotransmitters – dopamine and serotonin – that play an important role in brain functioning," stated the Web site.

In his suits, Kirchmer writes that AstraZeneca "aggressively" marketed its dangerous drug, "overstating the drug's benefits … and downplaying its adverse side effects" in order to rake in "blockbuster" profits – $2.76 billion in 2005 – at the expense of patients' health.

"The marketing and promotion efforts of AstraZeneca, through its advertisers and sales force, overstated the benefits of Seroquel and minimized, downplayed and concealed the risks associated with this drug," the suits stated.

"Despite the fact that AstraZeneca knew or should have known that Seroquel was associated with the aforesaid adverse effects, including diabetes mellitus, it recklessly, negligently, and with willful and wanton indifference to the health and safety of consumers, failed to include any warning regarding hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus, or related conditions until on or after January 2004."

The suits continue by faulting AstraZeneca for negligently failing to adequately test and researches its drug, and also accuses the company of maliciously ignoring scientific research indicting that its drug may cause diabetes.

Kirchmer's clients are all demanding a trial by jury and are suing for punitive damages, plus past and future impairment, emotional distress, pain, medical expenses and loss of consortium.

Case numbers for Beaumont Division are:
Ruth Sills case No. 1:08-cv-00055-MAC
Gerald Gitschier case No. 1:08-cv-00054-MAC
Hector Garcia case No. 1:08-cv-00053-KFG
Lori Dahlberg case No. 1:08-cv-00060-TH
Lois Moore case No. 1:08-cv-00059-TH
Lufkin Division:
Patsy Hall case No. 9:08-cv-00018-RHC

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