Drug maker may face huge fines

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Eli Lilly, maker of the drug Zyprexa, is considering paying a $1 billion settlement in a civil and criminal investigation, The New York Times reported Thursday. State and federal officials accuse Lilly of inappropriately encouraging doctors to use Zyprexa, a powerful antipsychotic, for the treatment of age-related dementia and mild bipolar disorder.

"Off-label" use of prescription drugs is legal for doctors, but Eli Lilly ran afoul of the law, the Times reported, when it was discovered the company was actively promoting its drugs for non-FDA approved uses. That's an action drug manufacturers are, by law, not allowed to take.

Zyprexa alone accounts for $1.5 billion a year in states' Medicare and Medicaid spending. Any fines Eli Lilly might pay in the settlement would be distributed among the state and federal agencies that purchase Zyprexa. If the settlement goes through, it will be the biggest ever paid by a drug company for this type of infraction, the Times reported.