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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eli Lilly Said to Play Down Risk of Top Pill

Sunday 17 December 2006
The drug maker Eli Lilly has engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia, according to hundreds of internal Lilly documents and e-mail messages among top company managers.

The documents, given to The Times by a lawyer representing mentally ill patients, show that Lilly executives kept important information from doctors about Zyprexa's links to obesity and its tendency to raise blood sugar - both known risk factors for diabetes.

Lilly's own published data, which it told its sales representatives to play down in conversations with doctors, has shown that 30 percent of patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, and some patients have reported gaining 100 pounds or more. But Lilly was concerned that Zyprexa's sales would be hurt if the company was more forthright about the fact that the drug might cause unmanageable weight gain or diabetes, according to the documents, which cover the period 1995 to 2004.

Zyprexa has become by far Lilly's best-selling product, with sales of $4.2 billion last year, when about two million people worldwide took the drug.

Critics, including the American Diabetes Association, have argued that Zyprexa, introduced in 1996, is more likely to cause diabetes than other widely used schizophrenia drugs. Lilly has consistently denied such a link, and did so again on Friday in a written response to questions about the documents. The company defended Zyprexa's safety, and said the documents had been taken out of context.... Last year, Lilly agreed to pay $750 million to settle suits by 8,000 people who claimed they developed diabetes or other medical problems after taking Zyprexa. Thousands more suits against the company are pending. (Read the whole article by clicking on the linked headline).
Gary Moller comments:
Now, let's see, $4 billion+ per year over 10 years = $40 billion. The cost of suppressing this health information = only $750 million - so far. If I was the CEO of this company, I think the maths is very much in favour of that decision to suppress, rather than disclose. Similar to pill-popping this behaviour is becoming a bit of a bad habit.

Do you think the US politicians are ever going to get tough on these guys with stiffer penalties that make non-disclosure uneconomic? No way! They will not do anything to hurt their buddies any further than a token slap on the hands with a wet bus ticket.

Politicians have allowed themselves to be compromised on this and other issues. For evidence of the millions of $$$ that are pumped into the political coffers of the USA political parties and individual electorates by pharmaceutical interests go here.

While we are at it; if you want evidence that the Iraq war is very good for business and benefiting politicians at the same time - and to see just how compromised both Republicans and Democrats are on these issues - then take a look at these charts. (Now that the balance of power has shifted in the US, it will be interesting to come back in several months from now and see if the "balance of payments" has shifted during that time).

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