Eli Lilly has reached a settlement with the doctor who leaked a series of documents to The New York Times about the blockbuster antipsychotic Zyprexa and who now says that he regrets his actions.

Earlier this year, David Egilman, a former plaintiffs' expert witness in Zyprexa (olanzapine) liability lawsuits which claim that side effects from the drug caused excessive weight gain and diabetes, conspired with attorney James Gottstein and journalist Alex Berenson to leak selective confidential Lilly documents to the NYT. What then followed was a major spate between the drugmaker and the newspaper, which saw the latter publish a host of articles accusing Lilly of playing down the dangers of Zyprexa and marketeting the drug for unapproved uses.

Lilly was all set to take legal action but now says that it has “agreed to forego seeking criminal and civil penalties against Dr Egilman for his illegal activities” after he approached the firm looking for a settlement and admitted what Lilly describes as “wrongdoing”.

Lilly 'unfairly portrayed'

In describing the settlement, which will see Dr Egilman pay $100,000 to Lilly (which in turn will donate it to the International Center for Clubhouse Development), the Indianapolis-headquartered firm’s deputy general counsel Michael Harrington said that the doctor “has now confirmed in writing what Lilly has been saying since the Times published these documents.” Specifically, Dr Egilman says he was “selective in which papers he released and they unfairly portrayed Lilly's activities in its interactions with doctors, patients and the Food and Drug Administration," Mr Harrington claimed, adding that “putting this issue behind us will help to ensure vulnerable patients will not be deterred from treatment based on misleading and inaccurate information”.

However, Dr Egilman’s signed declaration falls some way short of an apology. He says he wants “to accept responsibility for my actions in the Zyprexa litigation, which I now regret”, but "I understood from reviewing materials produced in the litigation that there was another side to the Zyprexa story". However he acknowledges that “I also had seen information regarding the beneficial impact Zyprexa has on patients' lives” and yet “I released a set of documents that did not represent the entire set of information concerning Lilly’s action and knowledge.”

As far as the documents themselves are concerned, last February Judge Jack Weinstein issued a permanent injunction against Dr Egilman, Mr Gottstein and eight other people, requiring them return to court all such documents and any copies. They have yet to be disclosed in full and some observers suggest they are unlikely to appear any time soon given that Lilly still faces lawsuits from several states and some third-party payers alleging that the company improperly promoted the drug and inadequately warned about possible side effects.

The company has spent more than $1 billion since 2005 to settle more than 30,000 patient product liability lawsuits concerning Zyprexa and around 350 are still pending.