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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
AstraZeneca in $355m fraud fine
Anglo-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca has agreed to pay $354.9m to settle charges it defrauded the US healthcare system.

The company admitted giving free samples of cancer drugs to doctors, who then billed Medicare for the full price.

The scheme which ran between 1993 and 1996 was designed to get oncologists accustomed to prescribing AstraZeneca's prostate cancer drug Zoladex.

The doctors claimed the arrangement help them cover the escalating cost of cancer treatment.

Shares slide

However, two physicians have been charged, and two have pleaded guilty, for their role in the Zoladex scam.

AstraZeneca's fine came as little surprise to investors, as the firm had already taken a $350m charge

As part of the deal with the US Justice Department, AstraZeneca it has also, settled, without admitting liability, for providing inducements to doctors to buy its drugs and for improperly setting and reporting prices.

AstraZeneca shares were down 2.4% at $43.10 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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