Killing for Fun and Profit

By David Glenn Cox

The

Department of Homeland Security has upped its threat level. Agents are

scouring the country in search of dangerous right wing extremists. For

the second time in two weeks, Americans have been gunned down in the

peaceful pursuit of their lives.

Bad men, crazy people, everywhere! Extremists, God help us!

Bloomberg reports a U.S. District Court Judge has allowed law suits

to move forward against Eli Lilly, the drug company is accused of

selling and encouraging physicians to prescribe the drug Zyprexa for

uses never proven or approved by the FDA. It’s called off-labeling; it

is used to goose profits by expanding a drug’s target population by

pushing its effectiveness against symptoms rather than illness.

In 1995, clinical trials of Zyprexa showed that the drug was

ineffective in treating dementia in older patients. The only

FDA-approved use of Zyprexa is in the treatment of schizophrenia, and

that would have relegated Zyprexa to the backwaters of the

pharmaceutical rivers. In the seven studies Lilly presented to the FDA,

it was shown the Zyprexa had absolutely no benefit whatsoever in the

treatment of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

But hey, this is America; it’s all just a matter of marketing. We

have wars to keep you safe from people who live in mud huts. And

campaigns to keep a Muslim country from getting nuclear power when it’s

surrounded by countries that do have nuclear power. It’s not what they

do; it’s what we say they will do.

Last year Zyprexa was Lilly’s most profitable drug, racking up $4.7

billion in sales. God bless America, only in America (patriotic music

here) could a drug totally ineffective at what it is being prescribed

for become number one in sales!

The judge released 10,000 pages of documents that tell a tale of

for-profit medicine as cold and calculating as robbing the fillings

from a corpse. Revealed was a 2002 business plan encouraging sales reps

to press doctors to prescribe the drug to elderly patients for insomnia

and mood swings. Ironically, one of the suggested symptoms to treat was

suspicion.

Lilly marketed the drug to primary care physicians and long-term

care facilities. Ever seeking to expand the market they added the

treatment to post traumatic stress disorder and sleep difficulties. By

2006 Lilly executives were rolling in cash and the company’s goal was

$6 billion in sales. In 2002, Lilly researcher Peter Feldman sent

E-mails to his boss Denice Torres, the company’s global marketing

director.

He said that they were going to stop studying Zyprexa’s potential

health benefits for elderly consumers. That would risk “killing the

goose that lays the golden eggs to save on poultry feed costs,” Feldman

said in the unsealed messages.

Ha ha, nothing better than a comic researcher, is there? Except

maybe an all-business marketing director. “Elderly remains an important

aspect of target PT and affiliate focus,” Torres answered in the

message.

“For two consecutive years, you have been on top and have turned in

above-plan performance,” Grady Grant, Lilly’s national sales director,

wrote to his salespeople in the newsletter.

“Once again you have all shown that (LTC) long term care is a

driving force for Zyprexa in the US affiliate in 2002,” Mike Murray,

another Lilly executive, wrote in the newsletter. “We must continue to

accelerate the growth of Zyprexa.”

A nice pat on the head from the boss man and fat sales commissions can do wonders for sales

One sales representative wrote in a March 7, 2003, note that she’d

persuaded a doctor to write Zyprexa prescriptions for use in “elderly

pts, help sleep and irritability.” Another asked a doctor to try

Zyprexa “in elderly who are not thinking clearly and are suspicious and

hostile,” according to an Aug. 31, 2001, note.

Only in America could not thinking clearly and being suspicious and

hostile be considered a symptom! Using that logic you could drug most

of this society. But were this just a case of selling sugar pills to

Granny and Boom Pa it could be forgiven. America’s shelves are full of

medicines and pseudo medicines and treatments and supplements that at

best might help a little, and at worst might deplete your wallet. But

Zyprexa kills. Deaths for those taking Zyprexa were “significantly

greater than placebo-treated patients (3.5 percent v. 1.5 percent,

respectively).”

Now take $4.7 billion in annual sales and do the death math. But

hey, they were making money, right? So who goes to jail? Go to jail?

Why, nobody’s going to jail, now or ever! This isn’t about wild-eyed

extremists filled with hate and rage answering God’s call to kill. This

is about nice capitalists in nice three-piece suits and ties killing

the elderly for fun and profit. Illegally and immorally pushing a drug

knowing full well in advance that it was dangerous and without any

benefit to the patient.

Jail? No, this is America; we just want our money back. Only bad men, extremists and wild-eyed fanatics go to jail.

Lilly has already paid out $1.2 billion for 32,000 individual

claims; the company faces further lawsuits by twelve states seeking

damages. The company agreed in January to pay $1.4 billion to thirty

states and this total included a $615 million fine levied by the

federal government. Damages from pending lawsuits could reach another

$6.8 billion, but with sales of $4 billion a year for seven years there

is little monetary loss for the company.

“”Plaintiffs are releasing one-sided, cherry-picked documents

obtained in discovery to selected news media in an effort to try their

cases in the media,” said Lilly spokeswoman Marni Lemons, who added

that the company will fight the lawsuit.

From a Lily sales memo from 2001: “With most customers, we will

continue to address the diabetes concern only when it arises. Get back

to selling!”

Go to jail? Don’t be ridiculous, no one is going to jail. Only bad

men, extremists and wild-eyed fanatics go to jail. This is just doing

business in America.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.