Back-and-forth on Seroquel as trial begins

Seroquel is on trial now for the first time, and lawyers are attempting to paint AstraZeneca as concerned primarily with the drug's marketing and sales, as opposed to safety. Meanwhile, the company is trying to shoot holes in claims that its top-selling antipsychotic drug causes diabetes.

So, lawyers made much of testimony from Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, a former AstraZeneca researcher, who said that the company's research budget for Seroquel was transferred to the sales department in 1997, and executives would only approve studies if they would "translate into marketing messages that will impact sales." They also pointed to internal emails that suggested AstraZeneca wasn't interested in new studies that might interfere with their marketing focus; Goldstein pledged funding for one study, for instance, as long as the data wouldn't "muddy the waters" around Seroquel.

But Goldstein himself said that the moving of the research budget didn't mean that the company wasn't interested in Seroquel's safety. "It's immaterial where the budget resides," he said in videotaped testimony (as quoted by Bloomberg). Plus, the financial move didn't occur until after Seroquel was FDA-approved, he noted.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca's lawyers said that Seroquel doesn't cause diabetes, blaming plaintiff Ted Baker's disease on his diet and lifestyle. The company also maintained that it had adequately warned patients and doctors about the drug's risks and marketed it appropriately. Lawyers also claimed that Baker's attorneys were cherry-picking documents to persuade jurors of "stuff that really isn't there."

- read the Bloomberg story