Zyprexa targeted again in St. Clair County

Ann Knef Feb. 6, 2008, 5:49am

Thirty-six plaintiffs from across the country have joined in a St. Clair County lawsuit against Eli Lilly and Co. claiming they were diagnosed with diabetes or related illness while taking the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa.

They claim the drug "negatively and detrimentally affected (their) blood sugar and endocrine system(s) gradually over time and duration."

One of the claimants is a local resident, Daniel Carlson of Belleville. Another Illinoisan, Leila Vanderbilt, is a named plaintiff. But the other 34 claimants are from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon, Kentucky, Florida, Vermont, Missouri, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Alabama.

Plaintiffs, represented by Lloyd M. Cueto and Christopher Cueto of Belleville -- the son and brother of St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd A. Cueto, respectively -- seek damages for personal injuries and economic damages suffered as a result of an allegedly defective and dangerous pharmaceutical product.

The attorneys filed a similar lawsuit against Eli Lilly in late November 2007 on behalf of 30 plaintiffs residing in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and New Jersey.

According to the complaint, plaintiffs did not possess sufficient information to cause them to inquire about their diabetes-related injuries associated with Zyprexa until the drug's label changed on Oct. 6, 2007.

"Prior to October 6, 2007, the defendant has contended that Zyprexa had not been proved to cause high blood sugar at a more frequent rate than its competitors," the complaint states.

Among other things, the plaintiffs also claim that Eli Lilly illegally solicited physicians to prescribe Zyprexa for "off-label" use, which means using the drug in ways other than what has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They also claim Eli Lilly made false statements to physicians and pharmacists concerning the efficacy and safety of Zyprexa for off-label use.

"As a result of Lilly's illegal scheme, Plaintiffs were prescribed Zyprexa for off-label uses.

"Lilly knew of the hazards associated with Zyprexa; affirmatively and actively concealed information which clearly demonstrated the dangers of Zyprexa and affirmatively misled the public and prescribing physicians with regard to the material and clear risks of Zyprexa…," the complaint states.

Eli Lilly has paid more than $1 billion to settle diabetes-related lawsuits, according to media reports. The pharmaceutical also faces lawsuits from several states and some third-party payers that accuse it of promoting the off-label use of Zyprexa.

And two shareholders have accused Lilly executives and directors of recklessly disregarding risks posed by illegal drug marketing tactics, according to a recent report by The Associated Press.

The lawsuit filed in St. Clair County Jan. 31 is at least the seventh such Zyprexa suit filed against Eli Lilly in St. Clair and Madison counties since January 2006.

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