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Judge OKs Zyprexa Class Action, Unseals Documents

Sep 8, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A federal judge has granted class action status to a Zyprexa lawsuit that claimed Eli Lilly hid the drug's serious side effects.  The decision by Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn also unseals confidential documents relating to the antipsychotic medication.  Eli Lily

The Zyprexa lawsuit in question was brought by insurance companies, pension funds and unions that want repaid for the money the  they spent on the drug. The plaintiffs contend that Eli Lilly knew that Zyprexa had caused excessive weight gain and diabetes, and that the company marketed it for unapproved uses. In July, Judge Weinstein urged Lilly to settle, but the case will now proceed to a jury trial.

The judge also unsealed hundreds of pages of confidential documents that were produced by Eli Lilly in relation to a lawsuit filed by patients.  They were placed under a protective court order soon after that suit was filed in 2004.  

In 2006, some of the Zyprexa papers were provided to a New York Times  reporter who wrote front-page articles based on the information they contained. According to the papers, Eli Lilly executives had kept information from doctors about Zyprexa’s links to obesity and high blood sugar.

In a ruling last year, Judge Weinstein said that the Times reporter had engaged in a conspiracy with a doctor and a lawyer and that they had used others “as their agents in crime.”  The Judge said the papers belonged to Lilly and ordered them returned.  Since then, many of the papers were entered into open court proceedings in Alaska, and copies of some have been posted on the Internet.

Judge Weinstein's latest ruling reiterated his opinion that The New York Times obtained the information illegally.  Be he also wrote that "Lilly’s legitimate interest in confidentiality does not outweigh the public interest in disclosure at this stage.”

Zyprexa is only approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  The group suing Lilly claim it violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) through mail fraud.   The plaintiffs claim Lilly’s actions resulted in them being overcharged for Zyprexa by as much as $7.7 billion. They allege that Zyprexa’s price was artificially inflated by Lilly’s false claims that Zyprexa was significantly more effective than previous generations of antipsychotic drugs.

In a draft order Weinstein wrote in July, the judge said the case against Lilly was strong enough to warrant a trial, that Lilly may have excessively encouraged questionable uses of Zyprexa.  


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