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Lilly Shares Decline Amid Concerns About Zyprexa Side Effects

Aug 1, 2002 | AP

Shares of Eli Lilly & Co. dropped Thursday amid concern that its drug to treat schizophrenia, Zyprexa, may be increasingly linked to side effects such as diabetes.

Leerink Swann & Co. raised the concerns in a note to investors, citing a medical journal's recent study that investigated Zyprexa-related cases of diabetes. Similar studies will soon be published, according to Leerink analyst Mario V. Corso.

"In the coming months, we expect to see journal publication of articles that further associate Zyprexa, as well as other atypical anti-psychotics, with diabetes and related serious side effects," Corso said in the report.

"Although the FDA may not act quickly to alter product labeling, we expect that such pressure will mount, and changes may take place in the next 12-18 months," Corso said.

Lilly shares fell dlrs 3.42 Thursday, nearly 6 percent, to dlrs 55.00 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Zyprexa is the company's top-selling drug, with sales of dlrs 3 billion last year.

Lilly spokeswoman Marni Lemons said that the study published in the July 2 issue of the journal Pharmacotherapy also raised concerns about other anti-psychotic drugs and did not link Zyprexa as a cause of diabetes or acidosis, another side effect. Acidosis is a condition where patients suffer from headaches, nausea and vomiting that is typically caused by excessive acid production in the body.

"High incidences of diabetes have been reported in cases of severe mental illness for many, many years, long before the current anti-psychotics were developed," Lemons said. "This suggests that this population is at risk.

"That makes it obvious that this is a problem, and it may or may not be associated with the drugs," she said. "That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of."

In his report to investors, Leerink's Corso said the FDA most likely would add bold warnings to labels in the class of drugs, but noted that it might not take action during the next year.

Currently, the labeling of Zyprexa, Pfizer's Geodon, Johnson and Johnson's Risperdal and AstraZeneca's Seroquel only allude to diabetes and acidosis in a list of side effects on product labeling and are listed as either rare or infrequent.

Lilly this month reported its fourth consecutive quarterly earnings decline of 20 percent or more and offered no promises of a quick resolution to manufacturing problems that could delay up to five new drugs.

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