John O'Brien Feb. 6, 2015, 2:36pm



AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) – Shortly before graduating to the governor’s office, former Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott included the State in a lawsuit brought by four whistleblowers against AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.




The whistleblowers originally filed a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging AstraZeneca misled the Texas Medicaid program into placing the cholesterol drug Crestor on the state’s Preferred Drug List, a placement that led to more doctors willing to prescribe the drug.








On Dec. 22, Abbott decided the State of Texas should intervene, as it had the option to do under the FCA.




Abbott’s petition says AstraZeneca wrongly claimed Crestor could reverse plaque buildup in arteries, reduce risk of death and lower cholesterol better than Lipitor.




“AstraZeneca chose increased profits over delivering truthful and complete information to Texas Medicaid,” the petition says.




“This unlawful conduct deprived both Texas Medicaid patients and doctors of the ability to make fully informed healthcare decisions.”




The four whistleblowers, former employees at the company, have also filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.




Texas had an option to join those three lawsuits but declined in order to pursue the Texas action in Harris County court.




On Feb. 4, the defendant removed the case to U.S. District Court or the Western District of Texas in Austin.




“(W)hile plaintiffs purport to assert only state law claims, the validity of those claims is predicated on the complex federal scheme governing the labeling and marketing of prescription drugs and the coverage and reimbursement for prescription drugs under Medicaid,” the removal notice says.




Whistleblower Layne Foote’s Delaware case is ongoing. The U.S. government has declined to intervene in it.




On Jan. 5, AstraZeneca moved to dismiss the Foote case, arguing it did not market the drug for off-label uses.




It claims that promoting the drug for “regression of atherosclerosis” was legal because it is part of the medically accepted indication of “generalized atherosclerosis.”




Texas' new attorney general is Ken Paxton.




From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.


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