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Eli Lilly employees were trained to downplay risks and encourage off-label uses

Bloomberg reported on August 5 that employees of the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company were trained to downplay the risks associated with Zyprexa.  The drug is approved for administration to schizophrenics and persons with bipolar disorder, only, and has been associated with dramatic weight gain and diabetes symptoms.

Lilly's research documented weight gains as high as 80 pounds, with an average weight gain of 12 pounds per patient in less than a year. The drug is also associated with high blood sugars of approximately 3.5 times that resulting for control groups.  Lilly paid the State of Alaska $15 million dollars in April to settle the State's claims involving hyperglycemia and has paid out more than $1.2 billion dollars to settle claims by private patients claiming injury.

Nevertheless, in its training materials to sales staff, Lilly was advising them to tell doctors the drug was appropriate for off-label uses and to "focus on symptoms, not diagnoses".  It suggested that doctors treat with the drug "even if he does not have a diagnosis" and urged sales people to "neutralize the diabetes/hyperglycemia issue".  Nine additional states have now sued Lilly over improper warning or marketing issues:  probably not a concern for a company earning $4.76 billion dollars per year on this drug alone.

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