Judge unseals secret Zyprexa papers

Eli Lilly will face a class-action suit over Zyprexa, now that a federal judge has certified a group of insurance companies, pension funds, and unions that want the drugmaker to repay them for the billions they spent on the controversial antipsychotic drug. The plaintiffs allege that Lilly hid the drug's side effects--including excessive weight gain and diabetes--and marketed it for off-label uses.

The judge, Jack Weinstein, said in his 295-page ruling that the plaintiffs have presented "sufficient evidence of fraud under RICO," the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act originally designed to prosecute organized crime but now often used in corporate cases.

Weinstein refused class status to individual patients who are suing Lilly over their own injuries from Zyprexa in the same ruling. But he unsealed some documents that have been at issue since the New York Times published a story based on them. They showed that Lilly execs had withheld info about Zyprexa side effects. The company said the documents had been "cherry-picked" to give that impression, and denied having kept back any side-effects data on the drug.

Now, the papers will be open to view, because Weinstein figures that they could have bearing on "the health of hundreds of thousands of people."  So, the judge ruled, Lilly's interest in keeping the documents secret is outweighed by "the public interest." Insurers, unions, medical researchers, and media organizations have petitioned for the documents, so the public is sure to get an earful.

- read the New York Times story
- check out the post at Pharmalot