Schizophrenia Drug Maker Faces First Jury Trial in
> 3/6/2008 2:11:08 PM

Update, 3-27-2008

The Alaska trial against Eli Lilly's schizophrenia drug Zyprexa has been settled for 15 million dollars. While this is some relief to the state, which contends that the company downplayed diabetes risks and thus cost the government hundreds of millions in healthcare costs, it leaves much unresolved. A jury trial would have dragged Lilly's practices under intense scrutiny, and perhaps encouraged more honesty in the future. Still, the case did get media attention before the settlement, and doctors are now at least more aware of the possible side-effects of Zyprexa.

Original Article:

Millions of patients continue to take Eli Lilly's schizophrenia drug Zyprexa despite the company's perennial legal troubles. In 2007, we wrote about a 500 million dollar settlement that Lilly agreed to pay to thousands of patients who claimed that they were not adequately warned about the risk of metabolic syndromes like diabetes. Despite this settlement, Lilly maintained that the  lawsuits were actually "without merit", and the case was never truly closed. The question about whether Lilly withheld vital information has resurfaced in a massive trial just begun in Alaska.

The Alaskan case involves not individual patients but rather the state government. The government is claiming damages because the lifelong debilitation common to schizophrenics has made many of them wards of the state. The mental healthcare they require is extremely costly to begin with, but becomes much more so when complications like diabetes are introduced. The claim rests on the allegation that caregivers were not fully informed about the risk of these complications. A New York Times investigation unearthed a paper and email trail going back as far as 1999 that indicated that executives were aware of the possibility that Zyprexa raises the risk of diabetes, and that they were worried about this information reaching doctors.

This is the first Zyprexa case to reach a jury, and the decision will have widespread implications for the fate of Lilly, and the future behavior of other pharmaceutical companies and government agencies. Numerous other states have already filed similar suits, and while settlements look likely, the amount at which the sides are willing to settle will shift drastically depending on the Alaska judgement. If Alaska wins, other governments may push aggressively enough damage the significant profits that Zyprexa has generated. More important than one company's retribution though is the way that this case might serve as a catalyst for more transparency and ongoing research. Zyprexa was approved with studies that totaled only 3,100 volunteers, so its approval should have been a provisional one made contingent on further study of patient reactions. More transparent trials for drugs that are making their way to market would prevent these situations as companies would have to respond to potential issues sooner and more effectively. Zyprexa, like other schizophrenia drugs, has very real benefits, but without proper management, the side effects can be harmful in their own right.


Thought your readers may be interested in a mental health campaign I'm helping to start called that is fighting stigma in trying to organize a grassroots lobbying force to secure more research funding. We just launched our website last week at Please check it out if it sounds interesting to you. Thanks!Jace
Posted by: Jace 3/6/2008 3:48:57 AM

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