A Small Price to Pay for The Molecule

by Crane-Station

Cartoon Zyprexa bottle with a baby whistleblower

How Big Pharm profited by mismarketing a drug.

In January of 2009, Eli Lilly settled a case with the Department of Justice (DOJ) for 1.415 billion dollars, for improper off-label promotion of Zyprexa, a drug approved for treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This is the fourth largest pharmaceutical company settlement with the DOJ in US history. The criminal charge notes, in part:

In September 1999, Eli Lilly began encouraging doctors to prescribe the drug for the treatment of dementia, Alzheimer’s, agitation, aggression, hostility, depression, and generalized sleep disorder. Zyprexa was not approved for use for any of these disorders, which, unlike schizophrenia, are prevalent in the elderly population. Nevertheless, Eli Lilly’s long-term care sales force promoted the use of Zyprexa in elderly populations for these symptoms.

While Eli Lilly had little choice but to pay up for its fraudulent marketing practices, lest it lose its Medicare/Medicaid business, Forbes reports just last month that nursing home patients are still receiving “dangerous antipsychotic drugs.” The manufacturer’s package insert for Zyprexa contains a black box warning that states, “Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.”

Lilly was aware from the beginning that its schizophrenia ‘molecule’ was not going to generate the revenue of Prozac, which would soon come off-patent. Rather than marketing Zyprexa honestly, it played to the drug’s side effect of chemical restraint. When chemical restraint meets the free market, the result is an Eighth Amendment violation that, although rationalized or otherwise couched in other terms is no different than chaining a person.

At the same time the company improperly encouraged off-label uses, it willfully downplayed voiced physician concern and study findings indicating side effects of weight gain and diabetes in patients receiving olanzapine (Zyprexa) therapy for approved use. As a whistleblower summed, “If you torture the data long enough, it’ll tell you anything you want to hear.” This practice is, to use Eli Lilly’s own internal email communication-come-court-document, “a small price to pay for the molecule.”

Ben Wallace-Wells, writing for Rolling Stone, penned an exceptional investigative journalistic article on the history and development of Zyprexa, in a piece titled Bitter Pill. He writes:

On January 15th, Lilly agreed to pay an additional $1.4 billion to settle federal charges of illegal marketing — a record settlement in a corporate whistle-blower case.

But the penalties pale in comparison to the money that Zyprexa makes for the company. In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, the drug generated $4.78 billion in sales, accounting for 25 percent of Lilly’s total revenues. As Rosenheck reviewed the marketing history of the atypicals, he concluded that misleading data told only part of the story. ‘How did this happen?’ he wondered. ‘How did this product that’s not very advantageous wind up being marketed as a great advance?’ Part of the underlying cause, he concluded, lay in the privatization that began with the Reagan revolution. ‘Ultimately, the conservative turn — with its faith in deregulation and the virtual infallibility of markets — are at the root of what allowed this to happen,’ he says.

The 1.4 billion figure was the largest settlement at that time. Now, it is in fourth position. To be clear, no Big Pharma executives, who slither around making decisions that harm and even kill people are ever being prosecuted. These fines are occasional, set aside, and a cost of doing business and nothing more. There are no criminal consequences when laws don’t apply to certain people who are corrupt racketeering diabolical ‘just making business decisions.’ Anything goes for the One Percent.

Just last year, Eli Lilly got busted en flagrante delicto, by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which alleged, using a modicum of linguistic decency (in its press release), that the company had engaged in improper “marketing agreements,” in Russia, Brazil, China and Poland. The laundry list of SEC allegations (relating to drugs other than Zyprexa) makes one wonder what Eli Lilly didn’t actually do, but given that they shelled out a total payment of $29,398,734 without admitting any wrongdoing, one can easily surmise that they failed to pay their hookers as well. The SEC complaint press release spells out, in no uncertain terms, after all, the fake-ass offshore accounts, the spa treatments, the cash, the jewelry.

On page 7 of the actual SEC 20-page gory complaint that details business methods so sleazy it makes you want to pass out, you will find that reimbursements from falsified expense reports were used for physician-customer “visits to bath houses,” in China, “among other things.”

‘It’s a small price to pay, for The Molecule’ pretty much sums up the situation going on today with Big Pharma behaving like animals. This is a case study for predatory capitalism, where ponzi schemes and crimes have the green light with a pitch man at the helm, while the whistleblowers and the mentally ill and the poor populate our massive prison industrial complex. When regulatory oversight is all but gutted, allowing the genius of the ‘free market’ to decide, Big Pharma exhibits competence in marketing methods that are surreal and downright criminal.

Because many of these patients receive publicly funded health insurance, the government is in effect, in criminal partnership with the veneer of transparency and regulation but the reality of la mordida. Settlement fines? Get real. It’s ass backwards to vilify our truth tellers while protecting our liars. Our last hope, the ‘third rail’ that could possibly unravel this whole thing is this simple: our whistleblowers, and the internet, getting the truth in front of the passing public.


In re INJUNCTION: “No newspaper or website is directed to do anything or to refrain from doing anything. See Parts IV.F, IV.H.4, and IV.H.7, infra. No person is enjoined from expressing an opinion or speaking or writing about the documents. See Part VII, infra.”

A Bitter Pill
“Created to treat schizophrenia, Zyprexa wound up being used on misbehaving kids. How the pharmaceutical industry turned a flawed and dangerous drug into a $16 billion bonanza”

Better strategies to treat dementia

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Eli Lilly and Company, Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-02045 (D.D.C.)
The Press Release

Plaintiff, Civil Action No. —

note: The SEC complaint has to do with Eli Lilly business practices pertaining to drugs other than Zyprexa. pdf document.

State Lawsuits – Atypical Antipsychotics

Giant number of Zyprexa document links here, detailing through court documents and other sources, how, for example, the story made its way to the New York Times.

Image released under a Creative Commons license by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL

12 Responses to A Small Price to Pay for The Molecule

  1. Two sides to a story says:

    My dad passed away with Lewy body dementia in 2010. His HMO doctors put him on Zyprexa for a short time until I researched and questioned it. Big pharma and those HMOs tend to hasten the deaths of older people with crap drugs like this.

    • roderick2012 says:

      2sides2: HMOs tend to hasten the deaths of older people with crap drugs like this.

      So much for Sarah Palin’s Obamacare death panels.

  2. bettykath says:

    OT but in my continuing series on Was Race a Factor


    During the search, they noticed some components inside the vehicle that did not appear to be factory,” Lt. Michael Combs told WKYC.

    Even though Gurley did not have any illegal drugs or weapons in the car, he was still arrested due to the state’s “hidden compartment” law, becoming the first person to be arrested under this law in the state.

    The law states: “No person shall knowingly operate, possess, or use a vehicle with a hidden compartment with knowledge that the hidden compartment is used or intended to be used to facilitate the unlawful concealment or transportation of a controlled substance.”

    Don’t know how they will prove “intent”.

    • crazy1946 says:

      bettykath, I followed the link provided in the article which led to the law. IMO this would be an extremely difficult law to enforce, and it should be interesting to see how a judge would react to it. I would actually suspect it will be over turned due to the over reaching application and description included in the language of the law. Here is one way to avoid prosecution under the law, and that is to state you are covered by the part that I enclose a copy of. To actually make the law stick, one would have to either find drugs in the alleged container or have been convicted of a drug trafficking offense in the past… Thanks for bringing this to our attention..

      (I) This section does not apply to a box, safe, container, or other item added to a vehicle for the purpose of securing valuables, electronics, or firearms provided that at the time of discovery the box, safe, container, or other item added to the vehicle does not contain a controlled substance or visible residue of a controlled substance.

  3. colin black says:

    And fifty years on from thalidomide the lessons learned by big pharm are zero.

  4. bettykath says:

    A long time ago owners of companies, including stockholders, could be charged and jailed for the kinds of behavior we now see rampant in so many companies that use the fines as just a cost of doing business. ExxonMobil was directed to pay a huge fine, appealed and got the fine drastically reduced. Whatever they pay, including legal fees, are all tax deductible.

    I listened to an Alternative Radio program yesterday where Paul Cienfuegos spoke about Community Rights, a grassroots movement where communities are passing laws to keep out bad actors. His speech is available here

    He posits that the only way to curb corporate excesses is by passing laws, community by community, that certain corporate/development behaviors are illegal. Making enough fuss that the corporations just go elsewhere or wait it out really isn’t enough. In NYS we have a moratorium on fracking, the process that poisons are ground water and well water, that is causing earthquakes in OK and probably elsewhere. Once the moratorium lapses, the companies will be ready. We really need to have been insisting on a law that would make this activity illegal. I think the moratorium slowed the anti-fracking movement, to the corporate advantage. We should have been pressing hard for a law.

  5. MDH says:

    The War on “Some” Drugs has sure protected us from the scourge of harmful chemical substances being put in our bodies, has it not?


    • Oh, yes. You know, looking back I am so grateful that I sat in prison, with a woman who was serving ten years for weed. She had, don’t you know, ‘more than five plants’ in her place in Eastern Kentucky, but man alive. I can’t begin to tell you how much safer I feel, that that woman’s life was tore up!

      • MDH says:

        There is so much BS about weed that I bet one could fertilize the Great Plains with it.

        IMO, it is a better way for solving some of the life ills that Big Pharma has a pill for.

        What if Fogen had been on weed rather than Adderal?

        • Well, I still think the guy likely had alcohol on board, but the Big Pharma chicanery goes to show you how bogus the whole ‘war on drugs’ /war on some drugs for some people some of the time really is.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        So much damage done to millions of innocent people! : /

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