Drug company to settle off-label-use marketing lawsuit

Emma Carew

 Big Pharma takes another hit, as drug maker Eli Lilly prepares to finalize a record-sized $1.4 billion settlement in a whistle blower lawsuit this week, according to a report in the New York Times.

The drug company is accused to marketing its anti-psychotic Zyprexa for off-label use in the elderly and children, despite risks of severe side effects ranging from extreme weight gain to sudden death. Without a settlement, the company could be barred from Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are major influences on the company’s annual sales.

Zyprexa "had sales of $4.8 billion in 2007, making it the biggest seller by far for Lilly, whose revenue that year was $18.6 billion," according to the Times report.

The settlement is expected to be finalized as early as Thursday. This line from the Times article is especially striking in illustrating the degree to which this issue plagues health care: "Just about every major drug company in recent years has pleaded guilty or is under investigation for urging doctors to use medicines beyond their approved uses."