South Carolina Lawyers Accuse Eli Lilly Of Outrageous Marketing Practices Over Zyprexa
South Carolina attorneys seeking billions of dollars in Zyprexa lawsuit
According to a Bloomberg news report, the State of South Carolina is seeking $200 million that it says it wrongfully spent on Zyprexa (olanzapine) caused by the drug maker's push to get doctors to write more prescriptions for unapproved and untested off label uses and that the company withheld information about Zyprexa's side effects in order to increase profits. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the antipsychotic drug to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. The State is also seeking a $5,000 fine for each Zyprexa prescription written in South Carolina dating back to 1997, which could equate to billions of dollars.
Although Lilly denies the allegations, South Carolina attorneys say that Lilly sales representatives' call notes (notes or journals kept by salespeople) show reprehensible behavior by the pharmaceutical company with little or no respect for consumers and patients who were prescribed the drug. Here's what's being alleged in some of those call notes:
- Wagering golf bets. During a golf game, sales representatives bet doctors to write more Zyprexa prescriptions for every time the rep parred or put the ball in a hole within a predetermined number of strokes.
- Paying doctors. One salesman allegedly told another salesman to tie a doctors Zyprexa prescriptions to participation in a paid speakers program. The salesman later pressed the doctor to write even more prescriptions reasoning that the doctor owed it to them because were paying him so much money to participate in the program. Lilly also offered other inducements to doctors who prescribed Zyprexa, such as deep-sea fishing trips and Palm Pilot devices.
- Convincing doctors to prescribe the drug for non-FDA approved uses. The company also allegedly pushed primary-care physicians to use the antipsychotic medication on children which hasn't been approved by the FDA. One rep's call note indicated that the drug is for kids whose parents have to shove the pills down their throat every day.
Zyprexa $1.4 billion settlement
The South Carolina lawsuit comes on the heels of the largest Qui Tam lawsuit in US history. It alleged that Eli Lilly created a long term care sales force specifically for the purpose of marketing Zyprexa for untested and unapproved off-label uses and misrepresented the potential dangers of the anti-psychotic drug to consumers. Two former employees brought the whistleblower lawsuit against the company, which later settled with the US Justice Department for a record $1.4 billion.
Zyprexa product liability attorneys say that not only did Lilly engage in deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices, but also downplayed Zyprexa side effects such as increased rates of death, diabetes and weight gain.