Fierce Pharma

June 12, 2009
By Tracy Staton

Eli Lilly prodded doctors to prescribe Zyprexa for dementia patients even though it had data showing the drug didn’t help those patients, Bloomberg reports, based on internal company documents made public as part of a lawsuit. Plus, the company “ghostwrote” journal articles supporting the atypical antipsychotic, then scouted for doctors to append their bylines, the documents show. Lilly also compiled a guide to hiring scientists to write favorable articles.

Aggrieved by the document release, Lilly defended itself: “Plaintiffs are releasing one-sided, cherry-picked documents obtained in discovery to selected news media in an effort to try their cases in the media,” Lilly spokeswoman Marni Lemons told Bloomberg, adding that the company will fight the lawsuit. She wouldn’t answer specific questions, however.

The unsealed documents were submitted as evidence in lawsuits against the drugmaker, filed by health insurance companies and pension plans that want to be repaid for their spending on Zyprexa. The plaintiffs are asking for as much as $6.8 billion in damages. Lilly already settled off-label marketing claims with the U.S. government and several states–for $1.42 billion, including a $615 million criminal penalty. The company has paid $1.2 billion to settle individual patient claims, Bloomberg reports. For comparison’s sake, Zyprexa sales for 2008 amounted to $4.69 billion, down slightly from $4.76 billion in 2007.