Trials illustrate two views of best-selling schizophrenia medicine

International Herald Tribune

By Alex Berenson

Two courtrooms, two floors of the Nesbett courthouse, two views of Zyprexa.

In courtroom 403, lawyers read corporate memos to the jury deciding the fate of a lawsuit brought by the state of Alaska, which was charging the drug maker Eli Lilly with hiding the dangers of Zyprexa, its best-selling schizophrenia medicine.

At the same time, in courtroom 301, William Bigley had his own opinions on Zyprexa and on the other drugs he has taken since 1980 to battle demons that only he can see. On March 14, a state court judge was to decide whether Bigley should be held for 30 days in a psychiatric hospital.

Bigley, 55, told the judge that the drugs were “poison” and that he did not need them. “I’m fine,” he said. His words were undercut, however, by regular claims to having seen flying saucers and to knowing that President George W Bush owned a private jet.

Of all the facts at issue in the two courtrooms, one was beyond debate. Bigley was not fine.

Even so, the hearing in the Bigley case offered a textbook illustration of the agonizing choices mentally ill patients face as they consider whether to take Zyprexa or other antipsychotics.

By calming the hallucinations and delusions that plague people with schizophrenia, drugs like Zyprexa allow many patients to live outside psychiatric institutions. But the documents discussed in room 403 offered plenty of evidence that Bigley, whatever his delusions, had good reason to dislike the medicines.

All antipsychotics have side effects, and Zyprexa’s are among the worst, according to the American Diabetes Association and to independent scientists. In many patients, Zyprexa causes severe weight gain that can lead to diabetes, as well as sharply higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. Those are all risk factors for heart disease.

Furthermore, the documents introduced in courtroom 403 showed that for much of the past decade, Lilly executives played down those risks. Among themselves, in internal e-mail messages and memos, they shared worries that sales of Zyprexa would fall if the drug were linked to weight gain or diabetes.

In 2002, for example, the Japanese government ordered Lilly to warn Japanese physicians against giving Zyprexa to people at high risk for diabetes. But Lilly did not add a similar warning to Zyprexa labels in the United States. Internally, Lilly executives acknowledged that the warning had hurt Zyprexa sales in Japan.

“The impact of the label change in Japan has been very profound,” two senior Lilly executives wrote in a memo on July 1, 2002. “There has been a 75% drop in new patients who are being put on the drug.”

Indeed, with U.S. doctors learning on their own about the connection between Zyprexa and diabetes, prescriptions for the drug have fallen 50 percent since 2003…

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Trials illustrate two views of best-selling schizophrenia medicine

  1. Laura

    I applaud the judge in Alaska, and imagine that his attitude might have been learned at the knee of Jim Gottstein at PsycRights.Org, who obtained the “Zyprexa Papers” now found on the blog furious seasons. I know that Jim does a lot of work in Alaska in the area of “forced drugging”. And I find it interesting that Zyprexa and the other atypicals have really not helped this man, even though Lilly used as one of its defenses a video of a person in a psychotic state. The life expectancy of people with mental illness has gone down, due primarily to the lethal effects of Zyprexa and the other atypicals. Zyprexa most of all. Thank you, Jim, for all your good work.

  2. Jana Hill

    WOW, we have found a judge who is willing to do his own work and not be an enforcer for organized psychiatry. The judge made his decision on the point of law and not on some fuzzy psyche threat.

    There is no room for the idea that we must hold people against their will because someone arrogantly predicts a future crime. People have to commit crimes before they are punished for them. For some reason, this idea has not reached many people until now.

  3. Of course, Mr. Bigley is not well. Psychiatry is not a wellness concern nor a healing business. I was a jerking, skin hanging on bones, suicidial, homicidal, and incredibly still alive, after my 50 some admissions and 31 years of psychitrization. Some people, including judges, are beginning to care more about people than supporting “superiors” controlling “inferiors” and making profits for drug companies and stockholders.
    I had been grief-stricken, fearful child, not being loved and was committed to psychiatry when I was 20. Psychiatry is both a physical and psychological devestating environment. Like everyone, I only got worse off. Then when I was 51 years old, a male nurse in an emergency ward said, “Go to Alcoholics Anonymous. They teach people how to get well there.” I went. “You can get well we will help you.” So I lied and said I was an alcoholic. It took me 6 months to learn that I was equally worth loving and the mental tools needed to live in this world and enjoy it.
    Psychological development classes need taught in our schools, mental rehabilation centers, and prisons. I have written my autobiography, Escape from Psychiatry, and Founder of Welcome World, a Humans Anonymous, 12-step program curing mental illness. http://www.welcomeworld.org. clovers@welcomeworld.org Clover Greene

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