U.S. feds launch probe into AstraZeneca plant in U.K.

U.S. federal investigators have taken an interest in manufacturing at an AstraZeneca ($AZN) plant in England, but the company is remaining mum about what precisely they want to know. 

The drugmaker acknowledged today during an earning call that in March it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney in Boston about manufacturing standards at its plant in Macclesfield, Reuters reports. The company is cooperating, but CFO Simon Lowth refused to give any specifics. 

The Macclesfield plant is the company's second largest manufacturing facility, with about 800 employees, Reuters said. It also packages drugs for 130 markets around the world. Reuters points out that the plant has a unique production line for making Zoladex, a treatment for hormone-sensitive breast and prostate cancer.

The Macclesfield plant has also been the manufacturing site for its psychotropic drug Seroquel. AstraZeneca paid $520 million in 2010 to settle allegations by U.S. authorities that it used various ploys to get doctors to write off-label prescriptions for the psychotropic drug, like paying them fees for articles and studies ghostwritten by others. The U.S. Army is currently performing trials looking into the use of Seroquel and other similar drugs, which some military doctors have prescribed for treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome. The company last year lost patent protection for the one-time blockbuster.  

But whether there is any connection between the subpoena and either of those drugs, Lowth wouldn't say. "It's a very early approach," he told reporters.

- here's the Reuters story

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