Lilly to pay $1.4B in Zyprexa settlement

The long rumored settlement between Eli Lilly and the Department of Justice is a done deal. The drugmaker will pay $1.4 billion to take care of claims that it promoted its antipsychotic med Zyprexa overzealously. As part of the arrangement, Lilly will plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Lilly had been accused of persuading doctors to prescribe Zyprexa to children and the elderly, despite the fact that the drug wasn't FDA-approved for those patient groups--and the knowledge that it was particularly risky for them to take. As you know, Zyprexa has been shown to cause excessive weight gain and to boost the risk of death in elderly patients with dementia.

The company's marketing worked, at least in kids: Over the past 10 years, the New York Times reports, Zyprexa use in children has skyrocketed.

According to the NYT, the $1.4 billion settlement deal is a record among whistleblower cases. Some $615 million of it is earmarked to settle the criminal charges. Lilly's misdemeanor guilty plea states that the company promoted Zyprexa in elderly patients as a dementia treatment even though it's not approved for that use. "We deeply regret the past actions covered by the misdemeanor plea," CEO John Lechleiter (photo) said in a statement today. "At Lilly we take seriously our responsibilities to abide by all the laws governing our business practices."

The deal has been in the works for months, and even the amount has been clear since last fall, when Lilly set aside $1.4 billion for an eventual settlement of the case.

- read Lilly's press release
- see the NYT story