(, ), is a large Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company
formed on 6 April 1999
by the remerger of Swedish Astra AB
and British Zeneca Group PLC
. Zeneca had been part of Imperial Chemical Industries
, as 3 divisions that were spun off from ICI on June 1, 1993.
The corporate headquarters are in London, England, the research and development (R&D) headquarters are in Södertälje, Sweden. Major R&D centres are located on three continents in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, and India.
AstraZeneca develops, manufactures, and sells pharmaceuticals to treat disorders in the gastrointestinal
, pathological inflammation
Collaborations and alliances
The company has formed a series of collaborations and alliances. In 2005 it announced an arrangement with Astex
for the discovery, development and commercialisation of novel small molecule inhibitors of Protein Kinase B
for use as anti-cancer agents
. In the same year it announced a collaboration with Avanir for research and licensing in the area of Reverse Cholesterol Transport (RCT) enhancing compounds for the treatment of cardiovascular disease
. It also announced an alliance with Schering AG
for research and licensing in the area of Selective Glucocorticoid Receptor Agonists (SEGRAs). It also announced that it had become a Diamond Member of the Pennsylvania Bio commerce organization.
Then in 2006 it formed an alliance with Abbott Laboratories in relation to Crestor and TriCor, commencing that year and extending to at least 2009.
In 2007 it reported that it had entered into an alliance with Bristol-Myers Squibb to form a world wide collaboration to develop and commercialize two investigational drugs (saxagliptin and dapagliflozin) beginning from 2007.
AstraZeneca specialises in prescription medicines to fight disease in the several therapeutic areas. Year-on sales information can be found through AstraZeneca Annual Reports. The following is a list of key products found on the AstraZeneca website. Generic drug names are given in brackets following the brand name.
Seroquel: apparent adverse effects
AstraZeneca has stated that the anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel, is the subject of four class action lawsuits in Canada. Also, in the US, there were multiple product liability cases alleging personal injury, namely, that Seroquel caused people to develop diabetes.
The company has indicated its intention to seek approval for Seroquel to treat psychiatric conditions such as depression and general anxiety disorder.
Note as well that scientific findings regarding a new sustained release form of the drug were announced at a conference in Madrid in March 2007. At the time the data regarding the new drug were discussed, it had not been approved for sale by any health regulatory body in any country.
Late Stage Trial Failures
AstraZeneca has experienced a run of failures of drugs in late-stage clinical trials. These include Galida for diabetes, Exanta
to prevent thrombosis, NXY-059
for acute ischemic stroke, and AGI-1067 for prevention of atherosclerosis. With patents expiring on older drugs, this threatens future revenue growth.
After this long run of failed late-stage clinical trials, in April 2007 AstraZeneca bought vaccine maker MedImmune, paying $15.2 billion primarily for its drug development pipeline. Analysts have criticized this take-over, claiming that AstraZeneca paid too much.
Nexium, the trade name for esomeprazole, is the successor to Prilosec (containing omeprazole). Commentators have taken issue with its development being an example of a company attempting to "evergreen" its drug patents. In this practice, a company might not be able to maintain a product's price and market share in the face of competition after the expiry of its patent protection, and therefore tries to find a new, patentable medication in the same field, which would ensure maximum profitability and market share for the company if marketed properly.
In this specific case, esomeprazole is a single stereoisomer of omeprazole and based upon available evidence there seems to be little difference between the two in dose-related response. To reduce side effects omeprazole is an inactive drug which only can be activated in a highly acidic environment, i.e in the gastric acid producing cells, however both stereoisomers converts to the same active drug.
Omeprazole is a very successful medication, but its patent protection expired in 2001. AZ, as owners of the lucrative Losec patent, sought to extend domination of the PPI market with Nexium and consequently marketed it as the successor to the original drug. Though identical in biological action, the new drug could be patented, thus achieving an "evergreen" patent protection of the product and maintaining market share.
This practice is criticised because it involves high costs for either individual patients and public healthcare systems, as well as potentially immoral, aggressive marketing to doctors in order to prevent them from prescribing generics.
On 16th of August, 2007, Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and Harvard Medical School lecturer in social medicine, alleged in the German magazine "Stern" that AstraZeneca's scientists had doctored their research on the drug's efficiency:
Nexium is also alleged by the authors to be "the top of the list" of medications which are marketed by pharmaceutical companies directly to doctors, who receive gifts of money and/or goods when they prescribe the medication in question.
As a reason for the company's behaviour, it is alleged that the German public healthcare system spends an additional €99 million per annum on Nexium as compared to using Omeprazole, which however would be less profitable for the company as its patent protection has expired.
were marketed with diminutive vague health warnings inside the boxes. Rather than specifying "depression", Zeneca used the term "changes in mood". Also "panic attacks and anxiety" were not mentioned, only "fits and seizures", in effect hiding information about mental effects, as it was more widely reported.
As a result of these understatements, thousands of people went on holiday carrying up to 365 days dosage of these drugs, without any understanding that if they were experiencing black moods after a couple of months, the medication should be discontinued. In 1998 the University of Edinburgh department of tropical medicine conducted a study on over 100 gap year students that had been abroad. It found that 31.8% of them that had taken the antiprophylactics for over three months complained of depression compared to 12.4% of students that had taken a holiday but not taken Chloroquine or Paludrine at all. Neither Zeneca nor the NHS replied to the findings of the study. The conclusion of the study was that Chloroquine and Paludrine cause a slow and gradual depression, and that the NHS were widely prescribing double dosages of the drug without any health warnings.
Corporate sexual harassment
Confronted by allegations
in a May 13
, Business Week cover story
, of widespread sexual harassment
and other abuses
, Astra USA Inc. suspended
three top executives
and launched an internal probe.
On June 26, the parent company announced that it had fired
Astra USA President
Lars Bildman without severance pay
. Carl-Gustav Johansson, an Astra executive vice-president
, says the investigation found that Bildman had "exhibited inappropriate behavior
at company functions" and had "abused his power
." He was also accused of misappropriation
, diverting them for personal expenses
such as "lavish trips
" and "extensive renovations
for his home." Another suspended executive, George Roadman, was also fired, while a third, Edward Aarons
. A senior executive in Sweden, Anders Lonner, was asked to resign for failing to report the misconduct
, Astra says.
Astra USA agreed to pay $9.85 million to settle a suit
brought by at least 79 women and one man against the company. The suit accused
Astra's former president and other executives of pressuring female employees for sex
and replacing older workers with younger, more attractive women. It was the biggest sexual harassment settlement
ever obtained by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
On February 4
, Astra USA sued Bildman, seeking $15 million for defrauding
. The sum included $2.3 million in company funds he allegedly used to fix up three of his homes, plus money the company paid as the result of the EEOC investigation. Astra's lawsuit alleged Bildman sexually harassed and intimidated employees, used company funds for yachts
, destroyed documents
, and concocted "tales of conspiracy
involving ex-KGB agents
… in a last-ditch effort to distract attention from the real wrongdoer, Bildman himself." Bildman had already plead guilty
in U.S. District Court
for failing to report more than $1 million in income on his tax returns
; in addition, several female co-workers filed personal sexual-harassment lawsuits.
The Senior Executive Team (SET) is David Brennan, Simon Lowth, John Patterson, Tony Zook, David Mott, Bruno Angelici, Lynn Tetrault, Jan Lundberg and David Smith.
Current members of the board of directors of AstraZeneca are: Louis Schweitzer, David Brennan, Jane Henney, Marcus Wallenberg, John Patterson, Håkan Mogren, Dame Nancy Rothwell, Bo Angelin, Michele Hooper, John Varley, John Buchanan and Jean-Philippe Courtois.