Unapproved Drug Promotion

This editorial in the NYT today dovetails nicely with the announcement at Henry Ford Health System that “Promotional products of any kind, food supplied by vendors or literature distributed by vendors, will no longer permitted at any Henry Ford site.”:

December 19, 2006
Playing Down the Risks of a Drug

It was bad enough when studies showed that the newest and most heavily promoted drugs for treating schizophrenia weren’t worth their high cost. Now the disturbing tale of their excessive use has taken a tawdry turn with revelations that Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical giant, has consistently played down the risks of its best-selling antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, and has promoted it for unapproved uses.

Zyprexa belongs to a class of drugs that were billed as a significant advance over the first generation of antipsychotic drugs but turned out to have serious flaws. Zyprexa, for example, has a tendency to raise blood sugar and to promote obesity, both of which are risk factors for diabetes. Some 30 percent of the patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, with some gaining 100 pounds or more. Yet the documents show that Lilly encouraged its sales representatives to play down these adverse effects when talking to doctors.

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