Drug maker under fire – Alaska court case shows the danger of industries policing themselves

Las Vegas Sun


Last week lawyers for Alaska testified that drug maker Eli Lilly concealed information that a popular schizophrenia drug caused side effects that include diabetes.

As a result, Alaska is suing the pharmaceutical company for the costs associated with treating Medicaid patients who the state says developed diabetes after taking Zyprexa.

About 23 million people have taken the drug since it was introduced in 1996. Lilly already has paid about $1.2 billion to settle about 30,000 claims from patients who say Zyprexa caused them to develop such problems as diabetes and weight gain, The New York Times reports.

But the case that opened in an Alaska state court Wednesday is the first Zyprexa case to go before a jury, the Times reports. And it is one that other states are watching. If the jury decides that Lilly executives did knowingly hide the existence of potential side effects, prosecutors in other states are likely to pursue similar cases and demand larger amounts of money.

Lilly’s attorneys say the company has done nothing wrong and that Zyprexa has proved to be of significant help to people who suffer from mental illness. But Alaska’s lawyers say company memos show Lilly’s executives knew of — and deliberately downplayed — Zyprexa’s side effects soon after the drug was released a dozen years ago.

Drug makers, just like any other corporation, should be held liable for their actions if a jury finds misconduct. The larger issue, however, is that this case highlights, yet again, one of the reasons why the pharmaceutical industry deserves tougher scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumers shouldn’t be guinea pigs for drug makers.


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