The British Medical Journal has issued a statement retracting the claims it made late earlier this month that Eli Lilly had covered up key trial documents linking its Prozac (fluoxetine) antidepressant with suicide attempts and violence [[04/01/05c]], and has formally apologised to the US drugmaker.

In its January 1 edition, the BMJ said that the US Food and Drug Administration was planning to review the classified documents that disappeared during a controversial 1994 trial between the firm and victims of a 1989 massacre in Kentucky that left eight people dead and 12 injured. The gunman was taking Prozac and later committed suicide. The BMJ said that the “missing” documents, which it received late last year, suggested that Lilly executives were aware as early as the late 1980s of possible negative side effects associated with Prozac’s use, but tried to reduce their effect on the drug’s prescribing.

However, the journal now concedes that the documents were in fact disclosed during the lawsuit. “The BMJ did not intend to suggest that Eli Lilly caused these documents to go missing. As a result of the investigation, it is clear that these documents did not go missing. The BMJ accepts that Eli Lilly acted properly in relation to the disclosure of these documents in these claims. The BMJ is happy to set the record straight and to apologize to Eli Lilly for this statement, which we now retract, but which we published in good faith,” the journal’s apology read.

Lilly, which has vigorously denied the allegations [[14/01/05a]], accepted the apology, calling it “an important step in gaining closure on this unfortunate event.”