If you haven’t read the front page (above the fold) of today’s NY Times, well, take a peek: it’s a rather long story about Eli Lilly’s antipsychotic “wonder drug”, Zyprexa (one of the drugs I am supposed to take but often don’t because of its excruciating expense). Apparently, it causes nearly 1/3 of its users to gain at least 22 pounds — with some people gaining over 100 pounds — after one year of use. Not only that, but it also causes diabetes.
According to the story, doctors have been talking about these side effects since 1999 — where the hell were my doctors when prescribing this drug to me?? I absolutely cannot believe this was a secret until now — seven years later!
The documents, given to The Times by a lawyer representing mentally ill patients, show that Lilly executives kept important information from doctors about Zyprexa’s links to obesity and its tendency to raise blood sugar — both known risk factors for diabetes.
Lilly’s own published data, which it told its sales representatives to play down in conversations with doctors, has shown that 30 percent of patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, and some patients have reported gaining 100 pounds or more. But Lilly was concerned that Zyprexa’s sales would be hurt if the company was more forthright about the fact that the drug might cause unmanageable weight gain or diabetes, according to the documents, which cover the period 1995 to 2004.
This story is not exactly confidence-inspiring when one thinks about the nature of big business, pharma, psychiatry or about the ethics of the salespeople employed by the pharmaceutical industry.