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GlaxoSmithKline to pay W.Va. $22M to settle drug lawsuit

Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay the state of West Virginia $22 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company illegally promoted its Avandia diabetes medicine.

The British drugmaker initially announced the settlement with West Virginia and seven other states in a regulatory filing in July 2013.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey signed off on the deal May 30, and announced the settlement Thursday.

Morrisey said GlaxoSmithKline’s $22 million payment is one of the largest pharmaceutical lawsuit settlements in state history.

“This settlement is a significant victory for the state, its agencies and the people,” Morrisey said in a prepared statement. “. . . We are pleased that we were able to recoup some of the money spent on these products.”

As part of the settlement, GlaxoSmithKline denied any wrongdoing.

Then-Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed the lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in 2012. The lawsuit alleged that GlaxoSmithKline failed to disclose side effects of Avandia, which the company marketed as a diabetes drug that would lower patients’ blood sugar and decrease risks of heart problems.

However, the drugs have been linked to heart attacks and strokes. Avandia was pulled from the market in Europe, and its sale is now heavily restricted in the United States.

“Our citizens have the right to know the risks and possible side effects of the medication they are taking,” Morrisey said.

Avandia once was the world’s best-selling diabetes drug, generating $3 billion in sales, according to a Bloomberg News report.

In November 2012, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $90 million to settle Avandia-related lawsuits in 37 states.

West Virginia was one of eight states that opted out of that multi-state agreement, a decision that seems to have paid dividends. States that settled their lawsuits in 2012 each received payments of about $1.5 million to $3 million.

In late March, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed not to try to recoup any of the $22 million that West Virginia received from the settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, Morrisey said.

“As part of the settlement, we wanted to make sure everything was handled appropriately and openly,” he said. “We instituted a different process so that the state was protected.”

McGraw filed the lawsuit on behalf of West Virginia’s Medicaid program and the state Public Employees Insurance Agency.

PEIA will receive $10.5 million from the $22 million settlement. The next-largest share, $4.6 million, will pay outside lawyer fees and expenses, while West Virginia’s Medicaid program will pick up $3.7 million. Also, Morrisey’s Consumer Protection Division will receive $3 million — money that will pay the division’s operating expenses for three years.

Lawyers from Huntington and Texas represented the state in the lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline.

In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay $3 billion and plead guilty to criminal charges in one of the largest health-care fraud cases in U.S. history. The settlement included charges of failing to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with clinical safety data about Avandia.

Reach Eric Eyre at or 304-348-4869.

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