Report: Drug manufacturer knew Zyprexa was ineffective, deadly for seniors with Alzheimer's

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Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lily & Co. knew its product Zyprexa was ineffective for treating dementia when it pressured physicians to prescribe it to seniors from 1999 and 2003, according to a report citing recently unsealed company documents.

Zyprexa is an anti-psychotic medication commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. While it is not unusual for physicians to prescribe such medications for off-label purposes such as treating Alzheimer's disease or dementia, internal documents reveal that seven studies conducted by or on behalf of Lily conclusively found that not only was Zyprexa ineffective for those treatments, it significantly increased the risk of death for the seniors who took them, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

Lily submitted study results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1995, four years before embarking on an allegedly illegal advertising campaign to influence physicians to prescribe the drug to seniors for treatment of dementia, the Bloomberg report claims.

Lily was compelled to unseal the documents as part of a lawsuit filed against it by insurers who claim they overpaid for Zyprexa. More than 10,000 pages of documents highlighting Lily's allegedly dubious activities were released to plaintiffs and lawyers. A Lily spokeswoman accused plaintiffs of attempting to "try their case in the media" by releasing "one-sided, cherry-picked documents." She said the company would fight the lawsuit.

According to Bloomberg, Lily has already settled more than 32,000 Zyprexa-related claims from patients at a cost of $1.2 billion. The current suit calls for damages totaling as much as $6.8 billion.

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