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Lilly reported close to paying $1.4 billion fine for illegally marketing Zyprexa to sedate unruly kids and nursing home residents

The New York Times reported today that Eli Lilly is expected to agree to pay $1.4 billion dollars to settle civil and criminal charges that it illegally marketed the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unauthorized "off-label" use to patients who were vulnerable to its risky side effects.  The drug was never approved for use with children or the elderly, however, authorities claim that the company had a decade-long scheme to persuade doctors to prescribe it to sedate "unruly" nursing home patients and "disruptive" children.  Lilly sales people have claimed that the marketing effort emphasized that patients sedated with the drug would require fewer skilled nursing staff hours and would "reduce caregiver stress". 

The drug increases the risk of sudden death, heart failure and pneumonia in the elderly and causes severe weight gain and metabolic problems, particularly in children.  A Lilly spokeswoman declined comment on the claimed settlement.  Zyprexa sales totalled $4.8 billion dollars in 2007 and costs about $25 per pill.  It was approved only for use in the treatment of schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.

Lilly had sued Dr. David Egilman, a Massachusetts physician who teaches at Brown University, seeking to punish him for releasing to the public internal Lilly documents detailing its illegal behavior and failure to respond to physicians' warnings.  He paid them $100,000.00 in September of 2007 to settle Lilly's lawsuit.

Government studies have documented that Zyprexa is no more effective in treating children than are the previous generation of anti-psychotic medications which are much cheaper.  A great bulk of the Zyprexa income is derived from Medicaid and Medicare.  A judge is reportedly prepared to approve the large settlement on January 15, 2009.

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