March 14, 2008
By ALEX BERENSON
Eli Lilly & Co.'s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana April 15, 2007. Photographer: Tom Strickland - Bloomberg News.
John C. Lechleiter, an Eli Lilly official who is about to become the company’s top executive, wrote an e-mail message in 2003 that appears to have encouraged Lilly to promote its schizophrenia medicine Zyprexa for a use not approved by federal drug regulators.
The e-mail message was discussed this week in an Anchorage courtroom in a lawsuit against Lilly by the State of Alaska. The suit seeks reimbursement for the medical costs of Medicaid patients who developed diabetes while taking Zyprexa. The drug causes severe weight gain and cholesterol problems in many patients and has been linked to diabetes.
...While doctors are free to prescribe it ”off label” for any patients for any use, it would be a violation of federal law for Lilly to actively encourage off-label use of the drug.
The federal government has investigated drug companies before for off-label promotion of their medicines, but Mr. Lechleiter’s note provides rare documentation of a senior drug executive’s openly discussing the practice.
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