Federal scientists have accused Eli Lilly of attempting to influence treatment guidelines for its blood infection treatment Xigris to boost slumping product sales.
In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, three scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Lilly financed a task force of doctors to spread word that hospitals were rationing Xigris due to its high price.
Xigris, developed to combat the severe blood infection response called sepsis, costs around $8,000 for a four-day treatment course.
The scientists argued evidence from clinical trials provided little support for using Xigris under any circumstances, alleging that Lilly used “marketing strategies masquerading as evidence-based medicine,” to help bolster sales of the drug.
Lilly responded to the accusations in a statement, saying it was “proper” to provide funding for its “Surviving Sepsis” campaign.
“We do not believe that Lilly had any role in the development of guideline content, beyond funding the initiative,” the company said. “The campaign worked independently and autonomously, and our funding for these grants was openly discussed.”
Xigris sales have fallen far short of the blockbuster expectations analysts had when the drug launched in 2001.
During the first half of 2006, Xigris sales were at $98 million, a drop of 16% when compared to the same period a year earlier.
Approximately 750,000 sepsis cases occur in the US each year, with mortality rates as high as 40%. Fewer than 150 US patients a day receive Xigris as treatment.