Never forget that drugs mean profit

September 17, 2008

I do know there are good, dedicated people out there developing medicines that will improve our lives. However, you have to remember that with the huge sums involved there is a tendency to cut corners when it comes to sales and marketing.

In fact, to outright lie, as has just been shown by a former FDA (Federal Drug Administration) official who has testified in court in Alaska that the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company knew as early as 1998 that Zyprexa increased the risk of developing diabetes, but did not issue warnings about those effects until 2007. As this drug alone brought the company $4.8 billion in 2007, and is sold in more than 80 countries worldwide, you can see why the company was so reluctant to be honest.

Now, the state of Alaska is suing them to recover the money that the state Medicaid system paid out to treat the serious health problems caused by the drug Zyprexa.

It’s a warning to consumers to think very carefully before taking any new medication that is still unproven because as soon as the drug was approved by the FDA in 1996, doctors quickly began to report that patients were experiencing severe weight gain, high blood sugar and diabetes. By 1998, the evidence from these reports and from clinical trials was overwhelming enough that Eli Lilly should have warned doctors about the side effects, and internal emails showed that company employees were aware of the risks, and that consultants had raised concerns about them.

In 2002, Japanese regulators imposed requirements that Eli Lilly warn doctors about Zyprexa’s diabetes risks, but even then the company’s U.S. policy was still to pretend the issue did not exist as this shows:

“We will NOT proactively address the diabetes concerns,” an internal company memo reads, instructing sales representatives to talk about diabetes only if doctors bring it up first and it was not until 2007 that Eli Lilly updated Zyprexa’s label to warn of severe increases to weight and blood sugar.

So if your doctor suggests a new drug to you, ask how long it’s been on the market and what the results have been. It never hurts to ask questions, and take more responsibility for your health.


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