Zyprexa targeted in St. Clair County

Kelly Holleran Oct. 13, 2009, 6:36am

Eli Lilly is being sued by an Illinois woman and an unknown number of plaintiffs who claim either they or their children developed a number of conditions ranging from diabetes to weight gain after taking the antipsychotic medication Zyprexa.

Irene Adams and the other plaintiffs say they began taking the drug, which is used to treat schizophrenia and acute manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder, at the advice of their doctors.

A short time after the plaintiffs' ingestion of the medication, they began suffering from either hyperglycemia, acute weight gain, exacerbation of diabetes, worsening of Alzheimer's symptoms, seizures, diabetic comas or pancreatitis, according to the complaint filed Oct. 5 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. A few of the plaintiffs claim to have lost loved ones who ingested the drug.

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.

Adams and the other plaintiffs allege 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 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 a popular drug, used by more than two million people in 2006 alone, Adams and the plaintiffs claim in their suit.

"In that same year, sales of the drug exceeded 4.2 billion dollars," the suit states. "Yet, Lilly's profits have come at a heavy cost to Plaintiffs' health."

In part, the drug's success is due to the company's failure to release adverse side effects associated with the drug, the plaintiffs claim.

"Although Lilly knew, or should have known, of the defective nature of Zyprexa, it continued to design, manufacture, market and sell Zyprexa so as to maximize sales and profits at the expense of the public health and safety, in knowing, conscious and deliberate disregard of the foreseeable harm caused by Zyprexa," the suit states.

Claims in the six-count suit include negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of implied warranty and breach of express warranty.

Adams and the other plaintiffs are asking the court for compensation for all actual, economic, non-economic and compensatory damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief to which the court may be entitled.

They will be represented by Andrew M. Liefer of Swansea.

John J. Driscoll of St. Louis filed a similar suit in June on behalf of Caleb Russell, who claimed he developed diabetes after taking the drug.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-552.

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