Covering Louisiana

Jul 26, 2013 6:43 PM

Drug maker agrees to $45M settlement with Louisiana

BATON ROUGE | GlaxoSmithKline agreed Friday to pay Louisiana $45 million to settle lawsuits accusing it of improperly marketing the diabetes drug Avandia and other drugs.

Attorneys for the state and company told state District Judge Janice Clark that GSK also will pay an additional $7 million to the private lawyers who handled the state's lawsuits against the firm.

"Today's multi-million dollar recovery is historic for Louisiana and marks an important victory for our consumers who have every right to know about the risks and negative side-effects of prescription drugs," said Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in a statement. "These kinds of deceptive tactics and misrepresentations will not be tolerated in this state, and violators like GSK will be held accountable."

Cleo Fields, one of GSK's attorneys, said outside Clark's courtroom the company "is not admitting it did anything wrong."

"The company is settling these matters to avoid the expense and uncertainty of protracted litigation and trial," GSK said in a statement. "The company did not admit to any wrongdoing or liability of any kind under these states' laws in this settlement."

Caldwell's office sued GSK in 2011, alleging the firm misrepresented the safety and efficacy of its prescription drug Avandia, causing Louisiana physicians to submit more than 304,000 "false claims" for Avandia for Louisiana Medicaid recipients. Avandia, once a blockbuster seller, fell out of favor because of potential ties to heart attacks.

"The reason for bringing this case was because they hid the grave and adverse effects, including death, that were brought on by this drug Avandia," Caldwell said Friday outside Clark's courtroom, adding that the state contends Avandia-related deaths occurred in Louisiana.

"With regards to Avandia," the company said in its statement, "we believe we acted responsibly in conducting the clinical trial program for Avandia, in marketing the medicine, in monitoring its safety once it was approved for use and in updating information in the medicine's labeling as new information became available."

In addition to Avandia, the settlement also resolves claims relating to the drugs Paxil, Wellbutrin, Advair, Lamictal, Zofran, Imitrex, Lotronex, Flovent and Valtrex for off-label, non-covered uses in violation of state laws, Caldwell's office said.

GSK further agreed to drop a lawsuit it filed last year against Caldwell. The suit claimed the private lawyers hired by Caldwell had a "personal financial interest" in the outcome of the litigation.

Attorney Wade Shows, one of the questioned lawyers, said the $45 million is part of a $229 million settlement with seven other states - Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah, New Mexico, West Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky.

Shows said the money will go directly to Louisiana's Medicaid program and the state received more money than any of the other states.

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