Saturday, December 16, 2006
Eli Lilly Minimizes Zyprexa Risk
The New York Times reports that Eli Lilly has been minimizing Zyprexa's risk for years:
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.
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.
However, psychiatrists became well aware that Zyprexa was much more likely to cause weight gain, diabetes, and high cholesterol than other 2nd generation antipsychotics. So what did Eli Lilly do?
Lilly did expand its marketing to primary care physicians, who its internal studies showed were less aware of Zyprexa’s side effects. Lilly sales material encouraged representatives to promote Zyprexa as a “safe, gentle psychotropic” suitable for people with mild mental illness.
Eli Lilly repeatedly lied to or withheld information from doctors:
To reassure doctors, Lilly also publicly said that when it followed up with patients who had taken Zyprexa in a clinical trial for three years, it found that weight gain appeared to plateau after about nine months. But the company did not discuss a far less reassuring finding in early 1999, disclosed in the documents, that blood sugar levels in the patients increased steadily for three years.
In 2000 and 2001, more warning signs emerged, the documents show. In four surveys conducted by Lilly’s marketing department, the company found that 70 percent of psychiatrists polled had seen at least one of their patients develop high blood sugar or diabetes while taking Zyprexa, compared with about 20 percent for Risperdal or Seroquel. Lilly never disclosed those findings.
(Risperidone and Seroquel are antipsychotics that have a moderate risk of causing diabetes. The risk with these 2 drugs is less than that of Zyprexa, but greater than that of Abilify or Geodon)
I hope that Eli Lilly loses its lawsuits:
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.
Because of the efforts of Eli Lilly, guidelines now force psychiatrists to monitor patients taking Geodon or Abilify for diabetes and other metabolic side effects. These drugs rarely cause metabolic side effects. All of the 2nd generation antipsychotics have been tarred with the FDA diabetes warning because Eli Lilly refused to own up to the problems with Zyprexa.