AZ resolves 17,500 Seroquel claims for $198M

Two-thirds down, just one-third to go--that's the situation for AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) now that it has settled 17,500 Seroquel liability claims for $198 million. And that's on top of the 200 settled last month for $2 million--and including the 5,500 reportedly disposed of last week.

With the latest settlement payouts running at $11,300 per plaintiff, the deals reinforce the notion that AZ could resolve its Seroquel litigation at a far lower price than originally projected. The drugmaker has been fighting the liability suits for some years now, ever since Seroquel was linked to an increased risk of diabetes.

That link has been difficult to prove in court, and in the only Seroquel case that has gone to trial, a jury found in favor of AstraZeneca. Three other suits have been dismissed by judges. The latest settlements are emerging from court-ordered mediation of 26,000 claims that were consolidated for pretrial work in Florida.

Analysts see AstraZeneca's push to dispose of its Seroquel litigation as part of a larger trend in pharma. Drugmakers are seeking to wipe their slates clean; for example, GlaxoSmithKline settled some of its Paxil lawsuits last month. "These companies want to put clear water between where they were and where they hope to be in the future," Jeremy Batstone-Carr, a Charles Stanley analyst, tells the Financial Times.

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- read the FT piece