Zyprexa targeted again in St. Clair County

Ann Knef and Kelly Holleran Oct. 9, 2008, 11:00am



Ninety-one claimants from 23 states, including Illinois, are suing Eli Lilly and Co. in St. Clair County, accusing the pharmaceutical company of soliciting an anti-psychotic drug to physicians for off-label uses.

According to the complaint filed Oct. 3, Lilly promoted Zyprexa by directly soliciting the drug to physicians for uses other than what was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier this week Eli Lilly agreed to pay $62 million to resolve claims with 32 states, including Illinois, that it improperly marketed and promoted its top-selling anti-schizophrenia drug.

The plaintiffs in the newest St. Clair County suit reside in Michigan, California, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, Delaware, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada, New York, Wisconsin, Oregon, Virginia, Georgia, Iowa, Texas and Illinois. They claim Zyprexa "contributed to negative and detrimental effects" on their blood sugar and endocrine systems gradually over time and duration.

Eight of the 91 are from Illinois. One of the Illinoisans, Grafton Ward, resides in East St. Louis.

Lilly has been sued nine times in St. Clair County over Zyprexa since late 2005.

The suit filed Oct. 3 also claims Eli Lilly failed to adequately warn physicians and patients of the drug Zyprexa's propensity to cause diabetes.

"Lilly's own pre-clinical studies regarding Zyprexa and medical literature related to anti-psychotic drugs dating to the 1950s demonstrate that Zyprexa and other anti-psychotics cause weight gain and hyperglycemia," the complaint states. "Further, immediately after Zyprexa's release, Lilly became aware of large numbers of adverse event reports on file with the FDA's Medwatch database involving diabetes-related illnesses associated with the use of Zyprexa."

The suit claims the FDA required Lilly to immediately warn of the prevalence of diabetes-related illnesses associated with Zyprexa and its class of drugs on Sept. 11, 2003, but Lilly waited until March 1, 2004, to send physicians a letter advising of the new warnings.

"Had Plaintiffs been adequately warned of the potential life-threatening side effects, Plaintiffs could have chosen to request other prescription medications and avoided Zyprexa's potential life-threatening side effects," the suit states.

The plaintiffs claim they did not know Zyprexa caused their high blood sugar until after Lilly changed the label on the drug Oct. 6, 2007.

Attorneys Lloyd M. Cueto of Belleville and Christopher Cueto of Belleville represent the plaintiffs.

Zyprexa in St. Clair County

The earliest Zyprexa suit included seven plaintiffs from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota who claimed the drug caused the onset of diabetes or pancreatitis.

St. Louis attorney John Driscoll of Brown & Crouppen filed the complaint Dec. 30, 2005, and on Feb. 29 of this year, voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto presided over the case. He signed the order to dismiss the same day.

Driscoll filed four more Zyprexa suits in 2006. One was removed to a multi-district litigation in the Eastern District of New York; three were removed to federal court in East St. Louis.

Another Brown & Crouppen attorney, D. Todd Mathews, filed suit in 2006 against Lilly on behalf of an Illinois plaintiff who claimed he developed pancreatitis after using Zyprexa. That case also was removed to federal court.

On Nov. 15, 2007, attorneys Lloyd M. Cueto and Christopher Cueto filed their first suit against Eli Lilly over Zyprexa. It was filed one week after Lloyd M. Cueto was sworn-in as a new lawyer. He is the son of Circuit Judge Lloyd A. Cueto and nephew of Christopher Cueto.

In the Cuetos' first Zyprexa case, they represent 30 plaintiffs from Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and New Jersey who have alleged they became diabetic after using Zyprexa.

The same lawyers filed their second suit against Eli Lilly earlier this year on behalf of 36 plaintiffs from various states alleging the use of Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes.

On May 12, attorney Driscoll filed an entry of appearance in the case. Circuit Judge Patrick Young presides.

Lilly, represented by Deirdre Gallagher of Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne in St. Louis, has filed motions to dismiss and to sever plaintiffs.

Indianapolis-based Lilly also has objected to plaintiffs' motions to amend complaints adding new plaintiffs.

In a second amended complaint, plaintiffs have sought to add 16 claims to the original 36.

A status conference is set Nov. 3.

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