Advocates seek access to drug company documents
Source: The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Another rights group has asked a judge to unseal documents kept secretby court order in class-action lawsuits against drug manufacturer EliLilly.
The documents apparently suggest the pharmaceutical companyknew that its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa had serious health sideeffects and tried to conceal the extent of the problems from doctorsand patients. They also appear to indicate that the company improperlymarketed the drug for uses the Food and Drug Administration had notapproved.
The Alliance for Human Research Protection argued in a brieffiled last week with the Eastern District Court of New York that thedocuments were improperly sealed by the court and that dissemination ofthe information they contain is of critical interest to the public.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, anonprofit agency protecting Internet free-speech rights, already hadfiled a brief in the case, claiming that the court had no power torestrict material already widely available on the Internet.
The documents – internal company memos, marketing materialsand research – have caused a minor firestorm since The New York Timespublished stories in December revealing their contents. The informationwas originally compiled and given to plaintiffs’ attorneys inclass-action lawsuits that eventually were settled out of court.
The Times obtained them from an Alaskan attorney who hadsubpoenaed them and then leaked them to the newspaper and to mentalhealth activists.
The documents were posted online until Eli Lilly complainedand a judge ordered them taken down and the links to them removed in atemporary injunction. Federal District Judge Jack Weinstein is expectedto rule soon on whether to make the injunction permanent or lift it.
Eugene-based MindFreedom – an international coalition ofgroups defending the rights of those with psychiatric diagnoses – wasamong the groups named in the injunction. Executive Director David Oakssaid his group had not obtained or published the documents, but didalert its members that the documents were available.
While all of the official links appear to have been severed,anyone with a lot of disk space and capable of downloading can stillaccess them.
In its brief on the matter, the Electronic Freedom Foundationnoted that William Childs, a law professor at the Western New EnglandSchool of Law, wrote in his blog that he was able to find the documentsafter just 17 minutes of searching.
Eli Lilly spokeswoman Carole Puls said the documents representa small fraction of the 11 million pages provided to lawyers duringlitigation.
“These documents do not in any way represent an accurate viewof Lilly company strategy or activities,” Puls wrote in an e-mailresponse to The Register-Guard.
“What these individuals are not likely to show you is themillions of other pages of documents demonstrating how Lilly and itsemployees have worked to improve the lives of people with schizophreniaor bipolar disorder.”