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Federal Judge Approves Settlement for Abbott Illegally Marketing Depakote

Federal Judge Approves Settlement for Abbott Illegally Marketing Depakote [Bristol Herald Courier, Va.]

From Bristol Herald Courier (VA) (October 3, 2012)

Oct. 03--ABINGDON, Va. -- A federal judge on Tuesday approved a pharmaceutical company’s $1.5 billion settlement for illegally marketing the anti-seizure drug Depakote for uses not permitted by the food and drug administration.

The agreed payoff by Abbott Laboratories Inc., originally crafted in May, is listed by state and federal prosecutors as the largest state Medicaid fraud investigation in the nation’s history.

"We expect companies to make honest, lawful claims about the drugs they sell," Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a written announcement of the settlement.

From 1996 through 2006, Abbott sent out a sales force specifically trained to market Depakote as a treatment for agitation and aggression in elderly patients, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.

From 2001 through 2006, Abbott marketed Depakote as a treatment for schizophrenia when combined with other mental health drugs.

Clinical trials failed to show the drug was an effective treatment for either of those uses.

"Abbott unlawfully targeted a vulnerable population, the elderly," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Timothy Heaphy said in the announcement.

Tuesday’s settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Samuel G. Wilson, includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $700 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $800 million.

Virginia’s share of the civil settlement is $4.2 million.

The initial lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Abingdon in 2007.

According to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the whistleblowers came to Virginia because the unit has a national reputation for successfully investigating major national cases, such as the Purdue Pharma Oxycontin case.

"Medicaid dollars are limited, and fraud deprives people in true need of necessary medical care," Cuccinelli said in a written statement.

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Posted: October 2012