Consumer Groups Sue AstraZeneca

NEW YORK A consortium of consumer groups yesterday filed suit against AstraZeneca, alleging misleading and deceptive advertising and promotional campaigns for its next generation stomach medication, Nexium.

The suit was filed in U.S. Superior Court in Los Angeles “on behalf of consumers nationwide who purchased Nexium” by the AFL-CIO, the Congress of California Seniors and the California Alliance of Retired Americans.

The suit alleges that the drug company sought to preserve market share and profits as the patent on Prilosec was set to expire by scheming to convince consumers that its new drug, Nexium, was significantly better than Prilosec. Prilosec is now available over the counter and is marketed by Procter & Gamble.

“AstraZeneca pulled a massive bait and switch on the American public,” said Nan Brasmer, president of the California Alliance for Retired Americans, in a statement.

AstraZeneca representative Jim Coyne called the allegations, “False and without any merit. We vigorously reject them.”

All three organizations are members of the Prescription Access Litigation Project, a national coalition of 100 consumer organizations that fights alleged drug-price inflation through class-action litigation.

The company spent $235 million on ads for Nexium last year and $135 million through August 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare in New York is lead agency on the account.