Monthly Archives: March 2008

Psychiatric pills can pack on pounds

United Press International

March 31, 2008

Antidepressants, mood stabilizers or newer generation anti-psychotics can result in a patient’s weight gain, a Canadian researcher said.

Psychiatric drug-related weight gain “is a huge problem,” Dr. David Lau, chairman of the diabetes and endocrine research group at the University of Calgary and president of Obesity Canada, told The Ottawa Citizen.

“You can see patients gaining 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds.”

Not everyone taking the psychiatric medications will gain weight, but patients may not be warned of the possible weight gain.

Lau said the anti-psychotics most likely to be associated with weight gain are: Clozaril, or clozapine; Zyprexa, Seroquel or quetiapine; Risperdal, or risperidone; Modecate or chlorpromazine; fluphenazine and Haldol or haloperidol…


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Ex-drug salesman: We lured docs with gifts

Boston Globe 

By Christine McConville

We all want to think that our doctors prescribe pain pills for our aching backs because it’s what we need, and not because a charming ex-cheerleader turned drug company sales rep has invited him to a Red Sox game.

But, according to a former drug salesman, that second scenario may be closer to the truth.

“We were the beautiful people,” Shahram Ahari, a former Eli Lilly “drug detailer,” told a group of Boston University medical students last week.

Ahari, who spent two years promoting drugs such as Prozac and Zyprexa, is telling the medical students what to watch out for when the sales reps come calling.

He is working with The Prescription Project, a group fighting the impact of pharmaceutical marketing on physicians’ prescription decisions.

The group contends that aggressive marketing to physicians by pharmaceutical companies creates conflicts of interest in the medical profession and raises questions about the appropriateness of treatment choices.

Many blame drug companies’ aggressive marketing efforts for a portion of the rise in health-care costs, because physicians are swayed into prescribing newer, more expensive medicines instead of older, less expensive brands…

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Vermont spent millions on suspect drug Zyprexa

The Times Argus

By Daniel Barlow Vermont Press Bureau

MONTPELIER – As the lawsuits against Eli Lilly over its top-selling anti-schizophrenia drug Zyprexa began piling up in 2006, Vermont’s state-run insurance program spent nearly $4 million on the drug, according to documents.

That amount may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to Zyprexa’s 2007 sales of $4.8 billion in the United States, but the payments through Vermont’s Medicaid program came at a time when 10 states and upwards of 30,000 people were suing the company over the drug.

Launched in 1996, Zyprexa has become the top-selling medication for drug-maker Eli Lilly. But those sales are dropping as lawsuits and leaked corporate documents reveal a decade-long effort to downplay the side effects, including weight gain and an increased chance of diabetes, in the company’s promotion of the drug.

Just this week the state of Alaska, population 670,000, settled its lawsuit against Eli Lilly for $15 million over what it claimed were increased Medicaid costs due to health problems associated with taking Zyprexa. That was the first state to settle with the company in the lawsuits.

Vermont is not one of the states now suing Eli Lilly. But on Thursday, the Vermont Association for Mental Health, a Montpelier-based advocacy organization, urged the state to pursue that legal option. Executive Director Ken Libertoff said this case was a “sad commentary” on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry…


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Otsuka to Pay Fine to Resolve Abilify Marketing Probe

Bloomberg News

By Robert Schmidt and Beth Jinks

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. agreed to pay $4 million to resolve U.S. allegations it marketed the schizophrenia drug Abilify for off-label uses in cahoots with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which settled in September.

The Justice Department accused New York-based Bristol-Myers and Otsuka American Pharmaceutical Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of the closely held Japanese drugmaker which invented Abilify, of promoting the antipsychotic for use in children, and as a remedy for dementia, without regulator approval.

Use in children wasn’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the time, and the drug is required to carry the most severe safety warning, a so-called black box, for use in dementia-related psychosis.

In September, Bristol-Myers completed an agreement to pay $515 million to settle U.S. allegations it overcharged the government for drugs and promoted medicines including Abilify for unapproved uses. Bristol-Myers directed its sales force to visit child psychiatrists and nursing homes, the Justice Department said in September. Otsuka’s sales force was “led primarily by Bristol-Myers sales managers,” the department said today.

Otsuka will pay the U.S. government about $2.3 million and the remainder to states’ Medicaid programs, the company said in a statement. It agreed to a corporate integrity agreement, without specifying the length of the compliance and monitoring pledged…

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State settles lawsuit over lack of warnings on dangerous drug – Eli Lilly to pay $15 million in first of many cases

Anchorage Daily News


Just days before its case would have gone to a jury, the state settled a lawsuit against Eli Lilly over the drug Zyprexa for $15 million in a deal that disappointed lawyers fighting in court for the state but was still a “good result,” according to Attorney General Talis Colberg.

The state of Alaska sued for unspecific millions to cover costs to the state Medicaid program for treating what it said were Zyprexa-related health problems, including diabetes and severe weight gain.

Had the case gone to a jury, whoever lost would have appealed and the matter wouldn’t have been decided for months if not years, lawyers said.

Evidence presented during the trial in Anchorage Superior Court suggested Lilly failed to clearly warn doctors of dangerous side effects because company officials worried it would reduce sales. Testimony began March 6.

Zyprexa is a widely used anti-psychotic and Lilly’s best selling product worldwide.

A team of Outside lawyers in court every day for the state didn’t want to settle. One of them, Scott Allen of Houston, Texas, didn’t show up Wednesday for the announcement…

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Alaska Suit Against Lilly Is Settled

New York Times


The prospect of a pending Supreme Court case that could sweep away many lawsuits against drug companies loomed over Alaska’s decision to settle the state’s suit against Eli Lilly over the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, lawyers for Lilly and the state said Wednesday.

Alaska had sued to recoup medical bills it said were generated by Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. But on Wednesday it agreed to settle for $15 million — a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that Ed Sniffen, Alaska’s senior assistant attorney general, had said the state was seeking when the trial opened three weeks ago.

On Wednesday, though, Mr. Sniffen said he was satisfied with the deal, in which Lilly did not admit wrongdoing.

“It’s a good settlement,” Mr. Sniffen said. “Probably not a great settlement, but I think it’s a good settlement.”

Good, at least, in light of that looming Supreme Court case. Mr. Sniffen noted that in October 2008, the Supreme Court is expected to hear Wyeth v. Levine, in which the drug maker Wyeth argues that federal laws bar, or “pre-empt,” most state court lawsuits filed by patients who say they were injured by drugs they have taken.

Based on last month’s 8-to-1 Supreme Court ruling in favor of pre-emption in a similar case about medical devices, the court is assumed to be leaning in favor of the drug industry in the Wyeth case. And so plaintiffs’ lawyers and state attorneys general are worried that they could have many of their pending claims dismissed when the court decides Wyeth…

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Lawmaker Asks NJ AG To Probe Antipsychotics


By Ed Silverman

New Jersey’s Medicaid program spent more than $73 million on antipsychotic meds for children less than 18 years old between 2000 and 2007, according to state records, even though the drugs weren’t approved by the FDA for treating kids. And a state official acknowledges the drugs may have been prescribed for conditions other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the approved uses.

And so a state legislator has written New Jersey Attorney General calling for an investigation. In a recent letter, Pat Diegnan, an assemblyman who has previously been outspoken about the use of these meds, wrote Anne Miligram to pursue an investigation of the “alleged misrepresentations concerning the safety and effectiveness of antipscychotic drugs,” which he first requested more than a year ago of her predecessor…

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