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Ethics in the Pharma Business – Why Did Ely Lilly Prescribe Non-Working Drugs?

eli-lilly-logoYou might have heard of this already – Ely Lilly has been actively marketing drugs supposed to counteract the Alzheimer disease for older people, which did not work. And this is more than a $6.8 billion suit already – the prosecutors have lots of documents to prove it, according to the media.

Insurers and other so-called third-party payers evaluated that Lilly could pay as much as $6.8 billion in damages for downplaying Zyprexa’s health risks, including excessive weight gain and the risk of contracting diabetes, and marketing the drug for unapproved uses to pump up profits, says Bloomberg.

Bloomberg News obtained copies of the documents after U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn, New York, ordered their release on May 1. In September, Weinstein allowed insurers and other payers to sue Lilly as a group after finding “sufficient evidence of fraud” to let the case go to trial. Lilly appealed that ruling.

Up so far, Lilly has already paid $1.2 billion for an estimated of 320,000 complaints, a huge number of patients who have been asking and getting damages. But the worst case comes from the later suits in the pipeline – and all of this due to an aggressive marketing of the drug.

Why did Ely Lilly pursue such a path? Profits are the obvious answer – the investments to develop such a drug are so huge, that they must be re-couped one way or another. And with weak ethics, you can imagine the outcome. In my opinion, this ethics-free marketing is very simillar to the case of Ford Taurus (where they even had a profit and loss account for the potential payments for dead drivers in the eventual lawsuits!). Except that in this case the death percentage is much smaller (3.5% from the tested patients with non-placebo). Cynical, hugh?

The share price for Eli Lilly (LLY.N) seemed very stable despite the announcement – it has even increased today with 1.39%, indicating that either the news have not reached the market, either that the portfolio holders are not willing to give up the shares based only on this piece of news.

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