Zyprexa – Lilly’s criminal drug marketing policies finally admitted

In March 2007, I wondered “how does a drug such as Zyprexa, that was approved for the treatment of adults with schizophrenia, and a few years later, was approved for short-term treatment of adults with manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, become such a HUGE selling medicine?

“Despite its extremely limited original approved uses, Zyprexa has gone on to become the top selling antipsychotic worldwide with an estimated 20 million people having used the drug and Lilly’s best-selling product, with $4.2 billion in sales in 2005, which translates into 30% of its total revenues.”

Well, finally we know how they did it – they simply broke the law

This from Phil Dawdy at Furious Seasons:

News is out this morning (15 January) that, as expected, Eli Lilly has settled claims against it by the feds and numerous states for illegal off-label marketing of its antipsychotic Zyprexa. The company also pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by promoting Zyprexa as a dementia treatment. The total settlement comes to $1.42 billion, bringing the company’s total Zyprexa settlements to date to about $2.7 billion. With more to come. Ten states have sued Lilly separately.

The settlement only covers off-label marketing of the drug for dementia. So what the hell happened to charges relating to the company’s lies about the safety of its drug in on-label uses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? I think the feds and the states walked away from this too easily because the company, which I can now safely dub “criminal,” lied about the fact that its drug caused diabetes in all manner of patient populations. Surely, that’s worth something to the feds and the states.

Lilly has issued a statement:

“‘We deeply regret the past actions covered by the misdemeanor plea,’ said John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lilly. ‘At Lilly we take seriously our responsibilities to abide by all the laws governing our business practices, and we realize that we have a tremendous responsibility to the patients and healthcare professionals we serve. Every day and with every interaction we strive to operate in a responsible and compliant manner. Doing the right thing is non-negotiable at Lilly, and I remain personally committed to all of us at Lilly maintaining the highest standards of conduct.'”

Uh huh, just like with Prozac.

Two points come to mind about this story – first, although Lilley have paid out a huge amount – $3.12 billion in fines, they  still have made money with Zyprexa, such are the levels of sales their illegal marketing achieved.

Second – they broke the law which they admit – and in all probability the company has been directly responsible for the deaths of patients who took Zyprexa because of this illegal marketing.

And they’ve got away with it.

To find out more, just type Zyprexa into the search box on the left.

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