Monday, December 18, 2006
Trust Us, We're Here to Help
For 10 years Eli Lilly has played down the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia. Hundreds of internal Lilly documents and e-mail messages among top company managers were collected as part of lawsuits on behalf of mentally ill patients against the company. For example, "unless we come clean on this, it could get much more serious than we might anticipate." Or this one, "Although M.D.’s like objective, educational materials, having our reps provide some with diabetes would further build its association to Zyprexa."
The problem with the drug is that it has been shown to cause substantial weight gain and diabetes. The dilemna for Lilly was that this was their biggest seller, with sales of $4.2 billion last year, when about two million people worldwide took the drug.
What are the scientists saying about Zyprexa? According to an article in the New York Times, "some top psychiatrists say that Zyprexa will continue to be widely used despite its side effects, because it works better than most other antipsychotic medicines in severely ill patients. But others say that Zyprexa appears no more effective overall than other medicines." I guess it's a matter of opinion. But the side effects do not seem to be a matter of opionion. Unless of course you ask Eli Lilly and the FDA. Lilly has never conducted a clinical trial to determine exactly how much Zyprexa raises patients’ diabetes risk.
Does anyone see a trend among corporate types? In order to rise to the top you have to be a certain type of person. These people know the fate of whistle blowers. None of them would dare stop what was happening for fear of ruining their career. What can we do? How can we stop these types of people from making sick people sicker?