Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 32 other states’ attorneys general scored a victory for consumers Oct. 7 when they reached a $62 million settlement with drug maker Eli Lilly over claims of unfair and deceptive marketing. The Associated Press reported that states sued Lilly for marketing its drug Zyprexa for off-label uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They also alleged that Lilly failed to fully disclose the drug’s side effects to doctors and patients. In announcing the settlement, Madigan’s office reported that Illinois will receive about $3.6 million.
Zyprexa (olanzapine) is an antipsychotic approved for patients with schizophrenia and manic depression. The FDA gives doctors the discretion to prescribe drugs for off-label uses, but requires that drug makers market their drugs only for the approved uses. According to the multi-state lawsuit, Lilly actively promoted the drug’s use for dementia in elderly patients, in children and in high doses, even though none of those uses are FDA-approved. In fact, one side effect of Zyprexa is an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia — the drug’s label carries a “black box” warning, the strongest warning possible in the U.S. Other side effects of Zyprexa include weight gain, diabetes, hyperglycemia and cardiovascular problems. Some of these side effects are the subjects of separate consumer protection lawsuits around the United States.
As consumer lawyers who handle health care fraud and deceptive advertising cases throughout the Chicago area, we are extremely interested in this consumer protection litigation. The dollar amount in this case is very large — though it could be larger, especially if claims about Zyprexa’s side effects are true. But more important even than the money are the non-financial terms of the settlement. Eli Lilly agreed to stop all off-label promotions for Zyprexa and to give its medical staff — not its marketing department — the final decision on all medical references and letters about the drug. It also cannot give samples of the drug to doctors and other medical practitioners who do not handle schizophrenia or manic depression.
Like many consumer rights attorneys, we distrust pharmaceutical advertising direct to consumers or to doctors, because we believe patient safety loses when it clashes with drug companies’ financial interests. From our Oak Brook main offices, in Naperville and throughout the Chicago area, we handle consumer protection litigation over defective drugs and other defective products, as well as fraud by health care product manufacturers. If you believe you might be a victim of this type of unfair practice and would like to learn more about your rights, please contact us for a free consultation on your case.