Given the bulging litigation over its antipsychotic, the drugmaker must figure that psychiatrists may hesitate before writing a scrip. To date, Lilly has agreed to pay about $1.2 billion to nearly 29,000 people who claim to have been injured by the drug, often citing diabetes as a side effect.
So Lilly has hired a medical education firm, Professional Risk Management Services, to soothe anxious psychiatrists who worry about malpractice lawsuits, according to The Carlat Psychiatry Blog. A flyer entitled "Get The Facts: Understanding Professional Liability Risk Associated with Prescribing Medications," is apparently being mailed nationwide. Also available is a 21-minute slide show that walks psychiatrists through the best steps for protecting themselves.
A key take-away message is documentation - the paper trail that justifies the reasons for prescribing Zyprexa, or any other med. As one slide notes: "Your record is your defense." One reason, according to the firm is that "plaintiffs' attorneys don't like well-documented care." And to give psychiatrists some confidence, the firm notes that psychiatric claims were the lowest number of claims closed among all medical specialties in 2005, and that the average indemnity payment of $178,512 was nearly 78 percent lower than the average indemnity for all specialties.
This tactic walks a fine line. Zyprexa is, of course, approved by the FDA and no doubt benefits some people. On the other hand, given the controversy over the side effects, the extent to which all side effect info was properly disclosed and ongoing government investigations into Lilly's handling of this issue, the effort to calm psychiatrists can give pause. Yes, it's legal and, in fact, smart marketing. But it also tells docs that they shouldn't worry - as long as they follow the correct 'risk management' steps. Perhaps this may sound disingenuous to some.
UPDATE: To see Lilly's response, please keep reading....
"The underlying message of this program is that the best way for psychiatrists â€“ and all physicians â€“ to manage their risk of litigation, happens to be to do whatâ€™s also best for their patients â€“ provide good clinical care, be informed, communicate and document the care.
"With the barrage of plaintiffsâ€™ lawyer advertising â€“ against Lilly medicines and numerous products made by other pharmaceutical companies â€“ we know that there is misunderstanding and anxiety in the psychiatric community about the risk of litigation and malpractice. For example, Lilly and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare announced in June, 2007, the results of a survey of 400 psychiatrists that showed that more than half had patients who stopped taking antipsychotic medication or reduced their dosages based upon fears raised by law firm advertising.
"We believe that any information that can help a physician reduce this anxiety and uncertainty will also help return his or her focus to good patient care, which is what is most important. This program is an attempt to provide helpful, independent, non-product-specific information to psychiatrists to keep the risk of litigation in perspective and to understand what they can appropriately do to reduce that risk."
Hat tip to The Carlat Psychiatry blog.