Court Orders Lawyer to Return Documents About an Eli Lilly Drug
Source: New York Times
A federal court in Brooklyn overseeing product liability lawsuits against Eli Lilly’s best-selling drug Zyprexa has ordered the lawyer who provided companydocuments to The New York Times and other organizations and individualsto return the documents.
The internal Eli Lilly documents and e-mail messages detailedefforts by the drug maker to play down the health risks of Zyprexa, amedication to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as toencourage primary care physicians to use it in patients who did nothave the disorder.
The documents, the basis for front-page articles on Sunday andMonday, were provided to a Times reporter and to organizations andindividuals interested in mental health issues by James B. Gottstein.Mr. Gottstein, who is not involved in the Lilly lawsuits, is a lawyerrepresenting mentally ill patients. He has sued the State of Alaska,accusing it of forcing patients to take psychiatric medicines againsttheir will.
Lilly originally provided the documents, under court seal, tolawyers for plaintiffs who sued the company, contending that theydeveloped diabetes from taking Zyprexa. Lilly agreed last year to pay$700 million to settle about 8,000 of the claims, but thousands moreare pending.
Mr. Gottstein, who was not a party to the confidentiality agreementthat covers the product liability suits, subpoenaed the documents inearly December from another person involved in the suits, Dr. DavidEgilman, an expert witness for the plaintiffs, who was also named inthe federal court’s order.
The order, issued yesterday by the United States District Court forthe Eastern District of New York, requires Mr. Gottstein to return allof the documents provided to him by Dr. Egilman or any other source.
Mr. Gottstein was ordered to provide the court a list of people ororganizations to which he gave the documents and to preserve allrelated voice mails and e-mail messages.
Mr. Gottstein said he was cooperating with the order and that he hadasked the Times reporter, Alex Berenson, by e-mail and telephone, toreturn the documents.
George Freeman, a Times lawyer, declined to comment on the courtorder, other than to say, “Our customary practice is to retaindocuments which we legitimately required during our news gatheringprocess and which are likely to be relevant to future reporting.”
The order did not name The Times or any other organizations orindividuals who may have received the documents nor did it require themto turn over the documents.
Mr. Gottstein said he believed that he had followed the ordersestablished by the court in the Zyprexa lawsuit when he subpoenaed Dr.Egilman for the Lilly documents. Dr. Egilman declined to comment.
In a statement, Michael J. Harrington, Lilly’s deputy generalcounsel, said: “Lilly is concerned that this deliberate violation of acourt order and the selective disclosure of incomplete information maycause unwarranted concern among patients that could cause them to stoptaking their medication without consulting their physician. We arepleased with the seriousness with which the court addressed this matterand look forward to Mr. Gottstein’s swift compliance with the order.”