South Carolina Lawsuit Alleges Docs Were Paid to Push Zyprexa

In the continuing scandals surrounding Big Pharma’s tactics to hawk products at any price, Eli Lilly & Company is making news again. This time, Eli Lilly stands accused of paying doctors in South Carolina to take part in a speakers’ program in exchange for prescribing <"">Zyprexa. The company also allegedly used golf bets to increase patient prescriptions for the antipsychotic medication, said

For instance, during one golf game, a physician agreed to place new patients on the anti-psychotic medication for every time a sales representative parred, or shot a golf ball in a hole in a specific number of strokes, said, citing a sales rep’s notes. “I got four pars out of nine holes … I said I wanted my four new patients,” wrote Lilly salesman Vince Sullivan in a February 2002 note, quoted This is only one of a number of such examples.

These notes were just recently made public following a court hearing in South Carolina in that state’s lawsuit against Eli Lilly over how it marketed Zyprexa, wrote, which explained that officials in South Carolina allege that Lilly marketed Zyprexa for unapproved—also known as off-label—uses, which is illegal. The trial is scheduled for September 14.

While physicians are free to prescribe medications for off-label uses—uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for drugs it has deemed approved—drug makers are banned from marketing approved drugs for any use not approved by the agency.

Recently, we wrote that Eli Lilly agreed to another multi-million dollar Zyprexa settlement with the state of West Virginia. According to a prior report, the $22.5 million settlement resolves the state’s clams that the company improperly marketed Zyprexa. West Virginia was seeking reimbursement for Medicaid money spent on the drug.

Eli Lilly still faces other lawsuits filed by states that claim Zyprexa was marketed for unapproved uses, such as dementia and depression. These lawsuits also allege that Eli Lilly withheld information about Zyprexa side effects, like diabetes and weight gain. The drug, which is the company’s biggest seller, is approved to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Other states with pending Zyprexa claims, other than South Carolina, include Connecticut, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and seven others, previously reported.

The South Carolina lawsuit is seeking $200 million the state alleges was wrongly spent on Zyprexa prescriptions due to Eli Lilly’s off-label marketing pushes, said, and also discusses the side effects that were withheld by the drug maker. also noted that South Carolina is looking to receive fines in the amount of $5,000 for every Zyprexa prescription written as far back as 1997; the total is expected to run in the billions of dollars.

The only other state lawsuit to go to trial thus far was one filed by Alaska, which ended in a $15 million out-of-court settlement. According to previously, in January the company struck a deal with the U.S. Justice Department in which it promised to pay $1.42 billion, including about $362 million to more than 30 states, to resolve a marketing probe. In October, Eli Lilly agreed to pay 32 states and the District of Columbia a total of $62 million to settle consumer protection claims over improper marketing.

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