Firm Pushed Drug It Knew Didn’t Work

Health insurers and states are suing Eli Lilly Co. over the way it marketed Zyprexa, an antipsychotic medication. Zyprexa was the firm’s best-selling drug in 2008.
(June 15) — Phamaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. urged doctors to prescribe its drug Zyprexa for elderly patients with dementia, even though the company had evidence the drug didn’t work in such cases, Bloomberg News reported.
The Bloomberg story is based on company documents that were unsealed in insurer lawsuits against the company over Zyprexa. Lilly began promoting the drug for use in elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in 1999, even though it had been approved only as a treatment for schizophrenia. The company also tried to get doctors to prescribe Zyprexa to elderly people struggling with moodiness and insomnia.

It’s unclear whether Lilly accepted the offer, Bloomberg said. It noted that a rival pharmacy company, Express Scripts Inc., also sent out letters touting Zyprexa. CVS and Express Scripts are not defendants in the lawsuit.
Zyprexa was Lilly’s best-selling drug in the U.S. in 2008, bringing in $14.6 billion. The documents were released as part of a $6.8 billion lawsuit over Lilly’s marketing of Zyprexa. Twelve states are also suing Lilly over the same matter.

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