Federal Judge Allows Zyprexa Class Action to Go Forward, Says Courts are “in the Strongest Position” to Protect Public from Fraudulent Drug Marketing
Cross-posted from Prescription Access Litigation blog:
BROOKLYN, NY – A U.S. District Court judge today issued a decision allowing to go forward a class action lawsuit that alleged that Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE: LLY) fraudulently marketed the atypical antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, for uses not approved by the FDA. Judge Jack B. Weinstein, of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of NY, denied Eli Lilly’s motion for summary judgment, as well as a summary judgment motion filed by the plaintiffs.
The 14-page order highlighted the importance of the Courts in protecting the public in the arena of prescription drugs. The Judge stated:
“Under the present organization of the pharmaceutical industry, the official federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the plaintiffs’ bar, the courts are arguably in the strongest position to effectively enforce appropriate standards protecting the public from fraudulent merchandising of drugs.” (Opinion, pp. 3-4)
The lawsuit, brought by the New York-based Sergeants Benevolent Association Health and Welfare Fund and others, alleged that Eli Lilly illegally marketed Zyprexa for “off-label” purposes (i.e. for uses not approved by the FDA), as well as withholding information about Zyprexa’s safety and efficacy. Doctors may prescribe prescription drugs for “off-label” uses but drug companies are prohibited from marketing or promoting drugs for such uses. A 2006 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that more than 1 in 7 prescriptions for commonly-used drugs were for off-label uses that lacked scientific support. A study released in January 2007 by the federal Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research found that there was little scientific evidence to support the off-label use of Zyprexa and other atypical antipsychotics.
The plaintiffs in this case alleged that Lilly’s marketing allowed it to charge a higher price than the drug would have been able to command. Lilly sold $4.4 billion worth of Zyprexa in the U.S. in 2006. According to a MarketWatch article, “While U.S. sales of Zyprexa rose 19% in the fourth quarter 2006, Lilly attributed this jump largely to higher prices.” (“Lilly CEO: 2007 Zyprexa sales seen flat,” Val Brickates Kennedy, MarketWatch, Mar 14, 2007)
The Court further said in its opinion:
“Allowing this and like suits to proceed may or may not increase the cost of pharmaceuticals and the efficacy of medical treatment in this country. It does, however, furnish backstop protection against under-regulated potentially dangerous activity by a market where caveat emptor largely rules.” (Opinion, p. 12)
“This ruling underscores the important role that Courts play in protecting patients from illegal drug company tactics,” said Alex Sugerman-Brozan, director of Prescription Access Litigation, a national coalition of which the Sergeants Benevolent Association Health and Welfare Fund is a member. “Unfortunately, the FDA has been trying to slam the courthouse doors in the public’s face by arguing that consumers’ legal claims are ‘preempted’ by the FDA’s authority.”
“We are very excited about this success and are grateful to all those who worked diligently defending the interests of our members,” said Ed Mullins, President of the Sergeants Benevolent Association. “We will continue to pursue any action of wrongdoing that impacts on a NYPD Sergeant or their family.”
The case is part of In re Zyprexa Products Liability Litigation, 04-MD-01596, E.D.N.Y. The Judge’s ruling can be found here.
About the Sergeants Benevolent Association
The Sergeants Benevolent Association (www.sbanyc.org) is comprised of approximately 10,000 active and retired sergeants of the New York City Police Department. An independent union, it acts as the collective bargaining unit for those officers during contract negotiations with the City of New York, and manages a variety of other projects – including health and welfare programs, political outreach efforts and community service initiatives – for the benefit of its members and their families. The breadth of the association’s activities is wide, but above all else, the SBA is an advocate for New York’s police sergeants, the officers who stand at the Frontline of our nation’s largest metropolitan police department.
About Prescription Access Litigation
Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) (www.prescriptionaccess.org) is a nationwide coalition of over 130 state, local, and national senior, labor and consumer health advocacy groups in 35 states and the District of Columbia fighting to make prescription drugs affordable. The organizations in the PAL coalition have a combined membership of over 13 million people. PAL works to end illegal drug industry practices that increase the price of prescription drugs beyond the reach of the American consumer, using class action litigation and public education. Since 2001, PAL members have filed 28 sets of lawsuits targeting such practices. News about PAL’s cases and public education efforts is published regularly on the PAL Blog at www.prescriptionaccess.org/blog