AZ faces US court over Nexium ads

LOS ANGELES, CA: US consumer groups are suing AstraZeneca, alleging the pharma giant conducted a misleading advertising and promotional campaign for heartburn drug Nexium.

The lawsuit contends that AZ’s campaigns misled patients into taking Nexium, rather than its ‘nearly identical’ OTC Prilosec (also known as Losec), the blockbuster whose patent was set to expire when Nexium was released in 2001.

‘Many of the consumers paid a premium price when they would have done just as well with the cheaper drug,’ said Alex Sugerman-Brozan, director of the Prescription Access Litigation Project (PAL), a coalition seeking to reduce the cost of drugs.

Three PAL members – the AFL-CIO, Congress of California Seniors, and California Alliance for Retired Americans – and law firm Hagens Berman filed the suit in the US Superior Court in Los Angeles.

Sugerman-Brozan said the difference between Prilosec, which lost patent protection in 2001, and Nexium, the so-called next-generation ‘purple pill’, was ‘small’, but AZ marketed the latter as a medical improvement.

AZ US manager of corporate external affairs Michelle Meeker said: ‘Data supports the advertising.’

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