Zyprexa user claims diabetes in suit against Eli Lilly

Kelly Holleran Jul. 13, 2009, 8:37am


Eli Lilly is being sued by an Illinois man who claims he developed diabetes after taking the antipsychotic medication Zyprexa.

Caleb Russell says he began taking drug, which is used to treat schizophrenia and acute manic episodes associated with Bipolar I disorder, at the age of 13 in 2003.

A short time after his ingestion of the medication, Russell developed diabetes, according to the complaint filed June 30 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Russell blames Zyprexa for causing his diabetes.

"Defendant Lilly's drug, Zyprexa, negatively and detrimentally affected Plaintiff's blood sugar and endocrine system gradually over time and duration," the suit states.

However, it was not until Oct. 6, 2007, when Eli Lilly changed its label on Zyprexa, that the company admitted the drug caused high blood sugar more often than other similar antipsychotic drugs, the complaint says.

Russell alleges the company should have changed its label far before it actually did, as it began receiving adverse event reports of the drug's propensity to cause diabetes as early as two years after it began marketing the drug in 1996, when 200 adverse event reports were submitted, according to the complaint.

In addition, in 2002, Eli Lilly changed Zyprexa's label in the United Kingdom and Japan to include warnings about the drug's association with diabetes, but failed to change the U.S. labels until more than one year later, the complaint says.

In its first label revision in the United States, Eli Lilly was forced in 2003 to include a warning that disclosed that people taking antipsychotic drugs were found to develop diabetes more frequently than those who weren't.

The company only included this warning because the FDA required all the makers of antipsychotic drugs to do so, the suit states.

Since the FDA approved the drug for sale in September 1996, Zyprexa has become the third best selling drug in the world, Russell claims in his suit.

"According to Lilly's Form 10K, 2004 worldwide Zyprexa sales exceeded $4.4 billion, which made Zyprexa Lilly's top selling drug by over $3.2 billion," the suit states.

In part, the drug's success is due to the company's illegal direct solicitation to physicians to recommend the drug for off-label uses, which is how Russell was prescribed the drug, the complaint says.

"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; they did so with the intent that prescribing physicians would continue to prescribe Zyprexa; they then well know that prescribing physicians would not be in a position to know the true risks of Zyprexa; and they know that prescribing physicians would rely upon the misleading information that they promulgated," the suit states.

Russell claims he would not have taken Zyprexa had he known of the "life-threatening" risks associated with it.

Claims in the 11-count suit include strict product liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, common law fraud, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, express warranty, implied warranty and statutory consumer fraud.

Russell is asking the court to declare Eli Lilly's actions unfair and to award him more than $50,000 in attorney's fees, costs and pre-judgment interest and. He is also seeking damages in excess of $350,000.

He will be represented by John J. Driscoll of St. Louis.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-349.

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