According to internal Eli Lilly documents and e-mails, sales reps were encouraged to play down Zyprexa’s risks for obesity and diabetes. They were also encouraged to promote the drug to treat dementia, even though it was only approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Lilly’s data showed that patients taking Zyprexa gained from 22 to 100 pounds within a year after taking the drug. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that atypical antipsychotics such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel can cause high blood sugar, or diabetes. In addition, to get primary care physicians to prescribe the drug, they pushed it as a treatment for dementia. Zyprexa is not approved to treat dementia, and the FDA warned that Zyprexa increases the risk of death in older patients with the disease.
Lilly recognizes Zyprexa’s effect on weight gain, but does not agree that it causes diabetes. As for promoting the drug in off-label uses, Lilly says they showed the FDA all their marketing materials. Last year, Lilly paid $750 million to settle lawsuits by 8,000 people who developed diabetes and other medical issues after taking Zyprexa. Thousands of lawsuits are still pending.