To bolster its contention, Lilly conducted a company-funded survey of 402 psychiatrists who treat patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and more than half said they believe their patients who stopped medication or reduced the dosage did so after seeing lawyers' ads about anti-psychotic drugs.
The ads have an "ambulance-chasing feel to them," says Linda Rosenberg, chief executive of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, which reps 1,300 healthcare organizations and helped design the survey. "All we're concerned about is getting patients talking to their doctors and not getting immediately frightened by an ad."
Fair enough. Some ads fit her description (click 'read more' to see one). And patient safety is paramount. But there's more than a little irony here. For years, drugmakers have been criticized for ads that minimize risks, and push consumers to ask docs for scrips. The issue is so contentious that Congress is weighing limits on DTC advertising. But when lawyers run ads - well, that's a problem.
Lilly has faced thousands of lawsuits over Zyprexa, which treats schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and generated $4.4 billion in sales last year. Most claims center on allegations that Zyprexa causes diabetes or high blood sugar and that labels on the drug failed to adequately warn users of the risks.
The drug maker has spent about $1.2 billion to settle roughly 28,000 Zyprexa claims since 2005. On Tuesday, Lilly said it settled an additional 900 claims but didn't disclose a settlement amount.
Reports about the dangerous side effects of certain drugs often don't address what happens when people stop taking them, says. Nada Stotland, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association, who wasn't involved in the Lilly study.
Stotland said suicides rose and the number of people taking a group of common antidepressants fell a few years ago after the media reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated severe "black box" warnings for the drugs.
"You can't prove a cause-and-effect, but you can draw a pretty good hypothesis that there's a relationship between suicides going up and people not being treated for depression," she says. What she didn't tell you is that the study was sponsored by Lilly, which also markets Prozac and Cymbalta.
Some of the lawyers' ads highlight the drug's side effects, while others note the amount Lilly has spent to settle lawsuits. One lawyer, William Berg, says his firm includes a disclaimer with each Zyprexa ad. "In all of our ads, we tell folks, 'Do not stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor.' "
Not all ads do.
Berg Injury Lawyers, based in Alameda, Calif., has represented more than 100 patients in lawsuits against Lilly. Berg said he runs the ads to let people know about their right to compensation if they experienced side effects that were not properly disclosed. "If we advertising lawyers don't tell people about their legal rights, who will? Eli Lilly sure isn't going to," he says.
Allen Rothenberg, a Philadelphia attorney whose firm also represents Zyprexa patients, said Lilly withheld information from patients and doctors about the drug. "What we do is we even the playing field for the individuals, for the people," he argues.
Lilly's Puls says the drugmaker has made doctors aware of Zyprexa's side effects since the drug debuted in 1996. "Doctors have been kept fully aware of risks associated with Zyprexa, and we think they're the best ones to determine appropriate treatment, not plaintiffs' attorneys," she says.
Source: Associated Press