AstraZeneca P.L.C. paid Florida child psychiatrist Jorge Armenteros to talk to other doctors about prescribing Seroquel, the company’s powerful antipsychotic.
And until yesterday, Armenteros also was listed as the chair and a voting member of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee with a lot of power over Seroquel, which generated $4.45 billion in sales last year for AstraZeneca, whose U.S. headquarters are in Wilmington.
On Wednesday, the advisory committee is expected to decide whether to expand dramatically the use of Seroquel XR, an extended-release version of the drug, which is used to treat depression and anxiety. But five members – including Armenteros, who did not return a call to his Coral Gables, Fla., office seeking comment – will not be voting.
Paul Pennock and Steve Sheller, lawyers who are suing AstraZeneca and other makers of antipsychotics on behalf of patients who say the drugs triggered their diabetes, say it’s because they uncovered company documents revealing potential conflicts of interest.
AstraZeneca said yesterday it had no say regarding which committee members vote, and referred questions to the FDA.
Company spokesman Tony Jewell said, “AstraZeneca believes the Advisory Board and the FDA will make the appropriate scientific and medical determination concerning the benefit-risk profile of the company’s supplemental new drug applications for Seroquel XR in major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.”
FDA spokeswoman Sandy Walsh said that temporary members sometimes replace standing committee members but that the agency does not say why such substitutions occur. Armenteros remains the chair of the standing committee until his term expires in June, she said.
So, this news seems to debunk my Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin’ theory. We can’t trust anyone. Why am I surprised? This news is extremely disturbing and I take it personally because well, I took Seroquel. I continue to see doctors push it. My grandmother died from complications of diabetes and she’d been on psych meds most of her life. This is not a game. We are not guinea pigs. We are human beings.
I’d like to see Senator Grassley on this committee. Also, let’s see, um, Bill Maher. And the millions of patients that have taken Seroquel. Sure some of us may have a conflict of interest but it would be something desperately needed here: THE TRUTH.