Would Zyprexa have become a best-seller for Eli Lilly if its blood-sugar risks had been fully revealed?
The New York Times reports that for at least a year Eli Lilly provided information to doctors about the blood-sugar risks of its schizophrenia drug Zyprexa that contradicts data circulated within the company when it first reviewed its clinical trial results.
The original results, according to a February 2000 memo, show that patients on Zyprexa were 3.5x more likely to experience high blood sugar levels as those on a placebo. But doctors were given a very different picture until at least late 2001; that Zyprexa patients were only slightly more likely to suffer high blood sugar.
A November 1999 report shows that 16% of patients taking Zyprexa for a year gained more than 66 pounds; Lilly chose instead to focus on data from a different, smaller group of clinical trials that showed 30% of patients gaining 22 pounds.
The memos were provided to The New York Times by a lawyer in Alaska representing mentally ill patients. Weight gain and high blood sugar are risk factors for diabetes, and whether Zyprexa causes diabetes has been a subject of scientific debate for several years. Lilly says no link has ever been proven.
Zyprexa is by far Lilly’s best-selling product, with $4.2b in 2005 sales; 30% of its overall revenue.blockquote>