AstraZeneca settles heartburn drug lawsuit for $425M

Oct. 3, 2023

AstraZeneca announced this week that it has reached settlement agreements worth $425 million in the product liability litigations related to its drugs, Nexium and Prilosec.

Esomeprazole (Nexium) and omeprazole (Prilosec) both began as prescription drugs, which were later offered OTC in lower dosages. The treatments belong to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors, designed to suppress acid production by binding to and inhibiting specific cells in the stomach lining. But both medications have been linked to kidney failure, liver damage, and bone issues. In their claims, plaintiffs argued that AstraZeneca knew about these side effects yet marketed the drugs as safe and effective.

AstraZeneca has continued to deny any wrongdoing. “These settlements avoid continued costly litigation and allow the company to move forward with its purpose of delivering life changing medicines to millions of patients around the world,” read the company's statement. The settlement resolves all U.S. cases with the exception of one that remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana with a trial is scheduled for April 2024.

In 2015, AstraZeneca reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, agreeing to pay $7.9 million to resolve allegations of a kickback scheme related to Nexium. The scheme involved alleged kickbacks aimed at boosting profits and led to false or fraudulent claims submitted to the Retiree Drug Subsidy Program.

As part of the settlement, the drugmaker was accused of making payments to a pharmacy benefit manager to maintain Nexium's exclusive status on specific formularies and for other marketing activities. The allegations, originally brought forward by two former employees under the False Claims Act, resulted in a civil settlement in which the whistleblowers collectively received $1.4 million.