Eli Lilly’s battle to defend its actions concerning Zyprexa has taken yet another turn with the news that a US federal judge has ordered several individuals to return confidential papers leaked to the media about the blockbuster antipsychotic.
Judge Jack Weinstein issued a permanent injunction against ten people, including Dr David Egilman, a plaintiffs' expert witness in Zyprexa (olanzapine) liability lawsuits which claim that side effects from the drug caused excessive weight gain and diabetes, and attorney James Gottstein, who, according to the judge, conspired with journalist Alex Berenson of The New York Times to leak selective confidential Lilly documents to the newspaper. The injunction requires that each return to the court all such documents and any copies of them in their possession.
The injunction follows a major spate between the drugmaker and The New York Times which saw the newspaper publish a host of articles based on the documents which, among other things, accused Lilly of playing down the dangers of Zyprexa. Judge Weinstein. The judge's order recognised that the "selective out-of-context" disclosure "may lead to confusion in the patient community and undeserved reputational harm" to Lilly, and reaffirmed the validity of the firm's designation of its documents as confidential.
Robert Armitage, Lilly's general counsel, said the firm appreciates that the court “understood the grave nature of the breach of trust committed by individuals who would take the law into their own hands rather than following the rules set by the court." He added that “although both Dr Egilman and the Times reporter refused to testify in court about their actions, Lilly looks forward to the opportunity to tell the complete story about Zyprexa and the company's actions” during upcoming trials. 1,200 lawsuits are outstanding after the firm settled 18,000 others at the beginning of January.
Whistleblower slams FDA over handling of Zyprexa
Lilly may have won a victory over Zyprexa in the courts but the drug found itself once again at the centre of attention in the US Congress. Dr David Graham, the US Food and Drug Administration official who caused a stir over the last couple of years by criticising the agency's handling of Merck & Co's withdrawn painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), told a congressional hearing that the FDA acted far too slowly in changing the label on Zyprexa to include the weight gain/diabetes risk. The famous whistleblower also told the hearing that other antipsychotic medications also warrant closer scrutiny.