Eli Lilly yesterday agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle claims from about 18,000 patients who said the company hid the risks of weight gain and diabetes associated with Zyprexa.
The cases had been set for trial in April. Lilly did not disclose terms of the settlement but said the amount was “substantially less” than the $700 million paid for more than 8,000 similar claims in a June 2005 settlement.
Including those earlier settlements, Lilly has now agreed to pay at least $1.2 billion to people who said they were hurt by the antipsychotic drug. At least 1,200 suits are still pending, the company said. Lilly faces lawsuits from several states, and more states could sue.
“While we remain confident that these claims are without merit…we wanted to reduce significant uncertainties involved in litigating such complex cases,” said Sidney Taurel, Lilly chief executive officer, in a statement.
With sales of $4.2 billion in 2005, Zyprexa is Lilly’s top seller. Wall Street seemed pleased with the agreement, pushing Lilly’s stock up 11 cents yesterday to $52.36, as were analysts, but Lilly may face difficulty reassuring doctors that the legal risk of prescribing Zyprexa is low.
The FDA in 2003 added a warning to antipsychotic drugs including Zyprexa about their tendency to cause high blood sugar. The federal judge supervising the Zyprexa litigation recently said that the 2003 label change makes future cases by Zyprexa patients “less viable, on statute of limitations grounds,” Lilly said.
The agreement follows a review of documents in The New York Times last month that show Lilly played down the risks of Zyprexa to doctors and that it encouraged off-label use. Lilly has denied any wrongdoing and said it provided all relevant information to doctors and regulators. The company has also said it did not promote Zyprexa for conditions other than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.