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Lawyer For Alaska Says Eli Lilly Hid Zyprexa Risks

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In an ongoing trial between the State of Alaska and Eli Lilly a lawyer for the State, Scott Allen, said Wednesday that Eli Lilly systematically hid the risks associated with the popular anti-psychotic Zyprexa. The drug has been linked to an elevated risk of developing diabetes. The state is asking Lilly to pay for the medical expenses of Medicaid patients that developed diabetes and other ailments resulting from taking Zyprexa. Allen said that Lilly deliberately attempted to downplay the existence of dangerous side effects in order to keep drug sales high. This is the first Zyprexa case of its kind to reach a jury trial, so the outcome will set a precedent for the way similar trials are addressed in the future.

If it finds Lilly liable, a second jury will be chosen to hear a trial that will determine whether Zyprexa caused the maladies of people who took it and how much the company must pay in restitution.

The state has not made a specific demand for restitution. Ed Sniffen, the senior assistant attorney general for Alaska, said that damages could rise to the “hundreds of millions” of dollars if the state wins and is awarded treble damages for the cost of the care it has provided.

Zyprexa is one the best selling medications in the world, with over $4.8 billion in sales in 2007 alone. Lilly has paid out over $1.2 billion to settle some 30,000 claims from people who alleged that Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes and other diseases.

Federal investigators are also currently conducting an investigation as to whether Lilly marketed Zyprexa for “off-label” uses. For years Lilly gave little weight to allegations claiming that the drug attributed to diabetes development. Last year under pressure from the FDA the company finally admitted that Zyprexa appears to have a greater risk of high blood sugar that other schizophrenia medications.