Yet another state is suing the drugmaker over allegations of illegally marketing the antipsychotic and concealing side effects such as weight gain and diabetes. Between 1996 and 2006, state Medical Assistance Programs spent more than $190 million on Zyprexa, and millions more were spent to treat injuries caused by Zyprexa.
"Through a complex series of illegal rackets and lies, Eli Lilly built a multibillion-dollar drug enterprise at the expense of taxpayers, consumers and patient lives," says Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in a statement in which he accused Lilly of promoting the drug for anxiety, depression and ADD in children even though the med was never approved by the FDA to treat those ailments. “...This scheme involved payments to public officials, bogus educational events and ghostwritten promotional articles summarizing suspect studies.
“Eli Lilly adopted a sick marketing mindset: profits over patients, sales over safety. Driven by fierce greed, Eli Lilly corrupted doctors, pharmacies and public officials nationwide who easily abandoned integrity and decency for self-enrichment. My office will fight aggressively on behalf of Connecticut citizens who continue to pay the price of Eli Lilly’s illegal, senseless schemes.” (This is the lawsuit.)
The lawsuit was filed just as Lilly is fighting a similar suit in a state courtroom in Alaska, where a trial began last week over similar accusations. A growing number of states, in fact, have filed suit over Zyprexa or are considering whether to do so. Lilly is in the midst of settlement talks with the US Attorney in Philadelphia and several states, and the outcome of the trial in Alaska is expected to shape the tone and subtance of negotiations.
A Lilly spokeswoman denied the allegations. "Lilly is committed to the highest ethical standards and to promoting our medications only for approved uses," she tells Reuters, adding that Lilly has clear guidelines and extensive training for its sales representatives to help assure that they provide appropriate promotional information within the scope of prescribing information approved by the FDA.
UPDATE: In a belated move, Lilly on Wed., March 12, issued a statement that says, in part, this: "Lilly strrongly disagrees with the characterization of company practices as alleged by the Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in a news release issued March 11, 2008. The tone and content of the release is a disservice to patients who may currently be taking Zyprexa to treat a life-threatening disease. Specifically, the news release contained no acknowledgement of the seriousness of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, no reference to the importance of treatment stability, and provided no guidance to patients who may now have questions about their treatment.
Given the lack of complete information in the news release, Lilly offers the following: Patients should continue with medications that have been prescribed and discuss their concerns with their doctor. And patients can get information about Zyprexa by contacting the LillyAnswers Center at 1-800-LillyRx (1-800-545-5979) or going to the Zyprexa website at www.zyprexa.com.
Zyprexa is a lifesaving medication that has been taken by more than 23 million people worldwide. We remain confident in the safety and efficacy of Zyprexa based on the depth and breadth of scientific research conducted around the world."