In Philidelphia today it was revealed that as a result of a law suit filed under the ‘Federal Whistleblower Act’ that drug maker Eli Lilly is on the hook to pay almost a billion and a half dollars over the misuse of one of its flagship drugs Zyprexa. Zyprexa is a prescription only drug and one approved for use as an anti-psychotic.

The suit found that Eli Lilly was heavily promoting the use of Zyprexa in a wide variety of situations that were outside of its intended use. To many, my self included it is hard to understand the somewhat arcane rules implemented by the FDA. While it is fine for a doctor to prescribe a drug for uses other than those approved by the FDA, it is not legal for a drug company to suggest non approved uses.

In the lawsuit Eli Lilly was alleged to have defrauded the the federal government. An investigation showed that up to 40% of Zypraxa sales, many of which were funded through Medicare and Medicaid were made for uses other than the prescribed anti-psychotic treatment.

While a $1.4 billion lawsuit might seem like a huge hit, reality is that Eli Lilly probably will not bat an eye lid, Zypraxa has earned them many billions of dollars since its introduction in 1996.

One has to question the validity of these kinds of lawsuits however. Should a company be sued because it promotes a drug for a use that it was not originally designed for? While the lowly Asprin was designed as a pain medication, it is now recommended in low doses for people with various heart conditions. I take one every day, and I have to admit that I really like the chewy orange flavored ones. New uses for drugs are a fact of life. Should a company be penalized for moving medicine forward?

The other question in my mind is the motives surrounding cases like this one. The law firm involved is Freeland Russo, to quote from their press release:

Freedland Russo is a law firm committed to assisting and fighting for consumers throughout Florida and nationally who have suffered social injustices at the hands of individuals, large corporations, and insurance companies. The firm is well known for handling complex cases involving matters of medical malpractice, pharmaceutical liability, automobile liability, wrongful death, and whistleblower cases. Freedland Russo is based in Weston, Florida. For more information log on to or call (Number redacted by the author)

In my mind this is yet another class action style lawsuit that achieves nothing but new BMW’s for the attorneys involved. What is not explained in this law suit is how the $1.4 Billion will be distributed. Based on other ‘class action’ lawsuits the ‘victims’ likely will get a check that might buy a 6-pack, or a couple of packs of their favorite cigarettes. The only winners in this ugly environment are the thousand dollar suited lawyers.

Tort reform is way overdue. Who wins in there cases? Only the lawyers! Who loses? Well, in my mind everyone. The consumer loses, whatever the product is, other products from the company will have to be priced higher in order for the company to stay viable. The company loses, it has egg on its face. The ‘victims’ lose, by way of the fact that they actually gain no real recourse in the settlement. What difference will a $20 or $50 check make to the average person?

Maybe the absolute best quote has to be:

Freedland, whose firm represents clients in whistleblower, personal injury and wrongful death cases, said this case was about good old fashioned greed that robbed U.S. taxpayers and put fragile lives in jeopardy.

What a joke! The only winners in this case are the lawyers!

Simon Barrett

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