Texas Psychiatrists Accused of Accepting Bribes from AstraZeneca PLC to Manipulate State Formulary

Published: Apr 24, 2015

Texas Psychiatrists Accused of Accepting Bribes from AstraZeneca PLC to Manipulate State Formulary
April 24, 2015
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Monday that two psychiatrists with Terrell State Hospital (TSH) resigned after allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from AstraZeneca PLC .

Lisa Perdue, a psychiatrist with TSH, resigned on Thursday and Anthony Claxton, also a psychiatrist with TSH, resigned on Friday. Allegedly the two physicians violated several department rules related to their relationship with AstraZeneca and efforts to have the antipsychotic medication Seroquel XR placed on the state formulary.

In October 2014, the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit against AstraZeneca, alleging that the company marketed Seroquel for unapproved uses, and paid kickbacks to state health officials and physicians. This resulted in the Texas Medicaid program overpaying for the drug. Perdue and Claxton were caught up in the investigation.

According to the lawsuit, at that time state mental health officials who were not identified, were paid $465,000 for their influence. The lawsuits states the officials had “the power to influence formulary decisions within the state hospital system.”

On April 14, Perdue and Claxton received hand-delivered letters written by Peggy Perry, director of the state hospital section. In the letter to Claxton, he is accused of receiving more than $231,000 from AstraZeneca for speaking engagements and consulting services. The letter indicates he provides those services at least 166 times between 2005 and 2012.

Under oath Perdue described her participation in the company’s plan for her to influence the Executive Formulary Committee. She denies that she agreed to contact members of the Executive Formulary Committee on behalf of AstraZeneca, and indicates she received approval from her supervisor to speak and consult for the company.

in a letter written by Perdue’s attorney, Kenneth Stone of Gray Reed & McGraw, to Peggy Perry, Stone wrote, “Dr. Perdue does not believe that she acted in a manner which conflicted with her proper discharge of her duties or in any way violated the public interest.” The letter goes on to further state, “She was compensated for her time and expertise as a psychiatrist in giving speeches to professionals on her own personal time.”

This case appears to echo a class action lawsuit brought by the New York firm of Girard Gibbs LLP on Oct. 16, 2012. In that class action lawsuit, U.K.-based AstraZeneca and India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories were accused of colluding to delay Ranbaxy from selling a generic version of AstraZeneca’s Nexium.

The Girard Gibbs website states, “This class action is brought on behalf of all consumers and third-party payers in the United States and its territories who purchased brand-name Nexium and/or its generic equivalents since April 14, 2008. Plaintiffs seeks judgment that the ‘pay-for-delay’ agreements are unlawful under the Sherman Act and equitable relief for violations of various state antitrust, consumer protection, and unjust enrichments laws.”

Basically, the lawsuit claims that AstraZeneca illegally paid Ranbaxy to delay selling its generic version of Nexium. Also involved in the case was Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA), which agree in principle to settle the lawsuit.

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