(NaturalNews) Drug giant AstraZeneca attempted to obscure the connection between one of its blockbuster drugs and diabetes risk for years after it knew of the problem, according to documents recently unsealed as part of lawsuits against the company.
More than 15,000 patients have sought damages from the company, alleging that they were harmed by side effects from its atypical antipsychotic Seroquel. According to the plaintiffs, AstraZeneca deliberately hid information linking the drug to an increased risk of weight gain and diabetes. The lawsuits have been consolidated into a single case for the purpose of pre-trial proceedings.
The recently unsealed documents include notes from a meeting between salesperson Nancy White and a doctor in July 2006, during which the doctor said that his patients were expressing concern about Seroquel's links to diabetes. White reported telling the doctor that "there has been no causative effect" proven between the drug and the disease.
Yet in November 2002, AstraZeneca had issued a warning to doctors in Japan that due to dozens of reports linking Seroquel to diabetes, "causality with the drug could not be ruled out." The company cautioned doctors not to prescribe the drugs to diabetics and to encourage all Seroquel patients to monitor their blood sugar. Just over a year later, the company issued a similar warning to doctors in the United States.
"It's pretty clear that if a drug poses a diabetes risk in one country, it poses that risk in others," said psychiatrist Dan Carlat of Tufts University. "I don't think it's ethical to warn doctors in Japan about this drug and then downplay or ignore the risk in the U.S."
Other documents reveal that the company trained its salespeople to dodge questions about the connection between Seroquel and weight gain.
Seroquel remains AstraZeneca's second-best selling drug, pulling in $4.45 billion in 2008.