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Utah AG makes Zyprexa Eight in latest Big Pharma lawsuit pile-on

By Legal News Line | May 18, 2007

Mark Shurtleff

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has joined seven of his state counterparts in a controversial lawsuit against Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly. Shurtleff filed suit Thursday against Lilly, claiming the company misled the state with a marketing blitz that promoted Zyprexa's utility for unapproved treatments. The drug, first developed to treat psychosis, is Eli Lilly's biggest seller and raked in $4.36 billion worldwide in 2006. The Utah suit, like others, claims Lilly marketed Zyprexa as a treatment for a range of mental illnesses, including anorexia, autism and dementia, while intentionally playing down side effects like weight gain and diabetes risk. Shurtleff's suit says Lilly "failed to appropriately warn consumers, including the state, its physicians and Medicaid recipients of the dangerous and permanent health consequences linked to the use of Zyprexa," quotes blogsite Pharmalot. "Utah has paid millions of dollars for inappropriate and medically unnecessary doses of Zyprexa. As a result, Lilly has been illegally enriched at the expense of the state." Utah is the third state to file an off-label Zyprexa marketing lawsuit against Eli Lilly in 2007, following Pennsylvania and Montana. Louisiana, West Virginia, Alaska, New Mexico and Mississippi filed last year, while Illinois and Vermont are still mulling action. The Zyprexa feeding frenzy already has tripped up some over-zealous state investigators. In February a federal judge granted Eli Lilly permanent injunction against certain individuals from distributing documents related to the case, a company press release stated. Judge Jack B. Weinstein granted the order after an expert witness was caught "selectively leaking" parts of a document to reporters despite being bound by court-ordered confidentiality. Shurtleff's lawsuit is seeking civil penalties of between $5,000 and $10,000 for each prescription written deemed "not medically necessary." Eli Lilly claims it has already settled with Zyprexa customers for around $1.2 billion so far.

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