The Washington, D.C.-based national mental health advocacy organization Bazelon Center annnounces in their news release that a major network of mental health professionals, researchers and consumer groups have asked a USA court to make Eli Lilly’s “secret” files about Zyprexa public.

Bazelon Center is a Sponsor Group in MindFreedom International

original news release

Media contacts: LaWanda Johnson, 202-467-5730 x 116, lawandaj@bazelon.org

Lee Carty, 202-467-5730 x 121, leec@bazelon.org

Bazelon Center News Release on “Zyprexa Motion”


5:00 pm, Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Washington, DC—Mental health professionals, researchers and consumer groups told a federal court today that it should release evidence that the Eli Lilly company’s largest-selling drug, Zyprexa, prescribed for treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has a significant risk of severe side effects. 

The group filed a challenge to a New York federal court’s order designating as confidential Lilly documents that have raised concerns about the safety of Zyprexa and Lilly’s marketing of the drug. The order came in an ongoing lawsuit against Lilly by thousands of individuals who had taken Zyprexa.

“Regardless of whether the documents contain trade secrets, given the sheer number of people taking Zyprexa, there is a strong public interest in full disclosure of its potential risks,” said Ira Burnim, legal director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a Washington-based national legal-advocacy organization, which filed today’s motion.

Approximately two million people worldwide took Zyprexa in 2005, and more than 20 million people in total have taken the drug since its introduction in 1996.

Today’s motion asks permission for the group to intervene in the lawsuit because “the public interest in disclosure is particularly high where, as here, health and safety issues are at stake.”

“Bringing transparency to the pharmaceutical industry is vital,” said Dr. David Rothman, director of the Center on Medicine as a Profession, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and one of the proposed intervenors. “Drug companies have built enormous walls around their marketing strategies. To make good public policy, we need to understand how they promote their products to physicians as well as to consumers.”

The documents at issue became public after they were obtained in an unrelated case and leaked to The New York Times, provoking a series of articles suggesting that Lilly’s top company managers had “engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the health risks of Zyprexa.” The documents were subsequently posted on several websites.

In addition, the Times cited “internal Lilly marketing materials,” stating that Lilly improperly “encouraged primary care physicians to use Zyprexa,” approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, “in patients who did not have either condition.”

“The Times’ articles make it clear that Lilly played down dangerous side effects and at the same time encouraged physicians to prescribe Zyprexa for dementia,” said Burnim, who acknowledged that he had not read the actual documents at issue. “This is an off-label use the federal government has specifically warned against.”

The proposed intervenors include the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, Mental Health America (formerly the National Mental Health Association), Consumers Union, former heads of mental health systems in Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Illinois, and leading professors of psychiatry and social medicine.

For a copy of the motion, contact LaWanda Johnson or Lee Carty.


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