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Maryland awarded $1.8 million in drug marketing settlement

If you or a loved one suffers from an incurable disease or disorder, you're probably eager to try any new treatments or drugs to curb its effects. Many people wait years for a solution that's been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat their condition. So when it was announced that a drug once recommended for the elderly and children turned out to be illegally marketed and possibly unsafe, there was considerable uproar, both from patients and the medical community.

The mood-stabilizing drug Depakote has been used for years to effectively treat seizure disorders, migraines and bi-polar disorder. But according to the U.S. Justice Department, the drug's manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, employed a specialized sales force to market the drug in nursing homes, saying it could also be used to treat dementia in elderly patients. The problem is that Abbott had neither credible scientific evidence to support this use, nor approval from the FDA to market the drug for dementia.

The drug was also said to be effective in treating autism and schizophrenia, even though clinical trials couldn't demonstrate that the drug was any more effective than antipsychotics in treating schizophrenia. In fact, many patients suffered from drowsiness, dehydration and anorexia as a result of taking the drug. Yet the misleading sales tactics were used from 1998 to at least 2006, according to a U.S. attorney, until whistleblowers brought the marketing practices to light. That led to a full investigation and the largest multi-state, consumer protection-based pharmaceutical settlement ever.

The $100 million settlement was reached this week between Abbott and 44 states and Washington, D.C. The state of Maryland will receive $1.8 million and has reached an additional agreement with Abbott to settle allegations of Medicaid fraud as a result of the illegal marketing.

Although affected patients and their families won't directly receive part of this settlement, in many cases patients advised to take drugs that turn out to be dangerous can find recourse through a product liability lawsuit. A consultation with a personal injury attorney who focuses on product liability is a good first step to ensuring you're compensated for any harm caused by dangerous drugs.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Md. to get $1.8 million in Abbott settlement over drug marketing," Meredith Cohn, May 7, 2012

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