December 20, 2006

NYTIMES Letters to the Editor on Zyprexa

It's late and everybody has visited today so I won't write a lot except to tell you that my letter came out in the Times this morning. I want to print all the letters so that you can see mine in context. Note that I am the only one who has taken the drug. The issue surrounds allegations that Lilly withheld or played down the risks of weight gain and diabetes with Zyprexa, though they knew about it all along, as internal documents purport to show.

To the Editor:

“Eli Lilly Said to Play Down Risk of Top Pill” (front page, Dec. 17), about the company’s decision to cover up health effects of its top-selling schizophrenia medication, Zyprexa, is a good example of the strong link between product safety and product liability.

Lawsuits are often the only means for the public to learn about dangerous drugs. This is especially true today, as the Food and Drug Administration has proved unable to keep some unsafe drugs off the market.

The article also illustrates the problems caused when companies settle cases and force the injured to sign confidentiality agreements, as was apparently done in this case. In such cases, wrongdoers can prolong misconduct and suppress information for years.

If lawsuits had not been brought in this case and a lawyer who was not bound by a confidentiality agreement had not come forward, the dangers of this drug would never be known to the wider public.

Joanne Doroshow
Executive Director
Center for Justice and Democracy
New York, Dec. 17, 2006

To the Editor:

It seems from your article about Eli Lilly’s marketing of Zyprexa, and from what I know from my experience as a psychiatrist, that the company has behaved as any for-profit corporation would.

While it may not have suppressed important information, it has certainly tried to present the situation in a way that maximizes sales of its product.

For it to do anything else would be a dereliction of duty, which is to shareholders, not patients.

The main hope for patients, then, lies in an objective physician, whose only duty is the good of his patient.

The physician must remain as free as possible from financial incentives and concerns, whether from drug companies or insurance companies, and exert his efforts to obtain objective information about drugs from as many sources as possible, and use this knowledge solely for his patient’s benefit.

It is in the public’s interest for physicians to remain objective, and devoted solely to their patients’ well-being, free from financial entanglements with drug or insurance companies.

Marshal Mandelkern, M.D.
New Haven, Dec. 17, 2006
The writer is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.

To the Editor:

Zyprexa is a miracle drug for some of us. That should not be forgotten in light of all that is coming out about Eli Lilly’s marketing practices. It opened up the world, allowed me to read and feel a crackling enthusiasm for life for the first time in years, and it cut down drastically on the voices and strange thoughts.

Zyprexa was also the worst drug I have ever taken, making me gain 65 pounds, adding 100 points to my cholesterol and raising my triglycerides sky-high. I was both ecstatic to be involved in the world and miserable, obese and unhealthy.

The problem is to solve the difficulties with Zyprexa, not simply take it off the market. It is too helpful a drug, especially for those who can tolerate it. I could not.

I now take three different antipsychotics that are effective but not as miraculous.

I miss Zyprexa.

Pamela Spiro Wagner
Wethersfield, Conn., Dec. 18, 2006

To the Editor:

Zyprexa is also prescribed in an “off label” manner to some children with autism whose behaviors may be self-injurious, dangerous to others or sometimes merely annoying to the “typical” population.

It is administered by desperate parents who, in the midst of an autism epidemic, are faced with no cure, no other answers and often inadequate educational and support systems.

Children with autism often gain weight on Zyprexa, too, and the specter of their also developing diabetes is horrifying in light of the injections and other additional medication they may need and the inability of some of those afflicted with autism to regulate such a disease without a great deal of assistance.

Barbara Fischkin
Long Beach, N.Y., Dec. 17, 2006

To the Editor:

Re “Playing Down the Risks of a Drug” (editorial, Dec. 19):

Congressional hearings into Eli Lilly’s playing down Zyprexa’s side effects, which you call for, will dabble only with the surface of the problem. The rules make the game, and with “nearly every major drug company ... under civil or criminal investigation for alleged efforts” to promote drugs for unapproved uses, it’s time to consider that there’s something fundamentally wrong with our privatized pharmaceutical industry.

Conservative dogma is that market forces lead to innovation and quality, but our experience in the drug business is that the profit motive leads to price-gouging, cover-ups and expensive litigation.

Meanwhile, even when Big Pharma is obeying the law, vital medicines for poor children and rare diseases are neglected, while research and development budgets are spent on advertising to a market that is flooded with erection enhancers.

We need to get the money-changers out of medicine, and make drugs for people, not for profit.

David Berman
New York, Dec. 19, 2006
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Posted by pamwagg at December 20, 2006 10:00 PM


Hi Pam,
I handle my daughter's Cassie SSI. I pay her bills
and more often than not
I do supplement my daughter's income. I buy the
things she can't afford like
craft items (beads, yarn, knitting needles, fabric,
etc.). I often buy my
daughter clothes for there isn't enough in her SSI
to buy a decent coat or
shoes. This month I am helping her out with
groceries and cigarettes.

Posted by: szadmin at December 21, 2006 04:42 PM

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