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Killing for Fun and Profit

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The Department of Homeland Security has upped its threat level. Agents are scouring the country in search of dangerous right wing extremists. For the second time in two weeks, Americans have been gunned down in the peaceful pursuit of their lives.

Bad men, crazy people, everywhere! Extremists, God help us!

Bloomberg reports a U.S. District Court Judge has allowed law suits to move forward against Eli Lilly, the drug company is accused of selling and encouraging physicians to prescribe the drug Zyprexa for uses never proven or approved by the FDA. It's called off-labeling; it is used to goose profits by expanding a drug's target population by pushing its effectiveness against symptoms rather than illness.

In 1995, clinical trials of Zyprexa showed that the drug was ineffective in treating dementia in older patients. The only FDA-approved use of Zyprexa is in the treatment of schizophrenia, and that would have relegated Zyprexa to the backwaters of the pharmaceutical rivers. In the seven studies Lilly presented to the FDA, it was shown the Zyprexa had absolutely no benefit whatsoever in the treatment of dementia or Alzheimer's.

But hey, this is America; it's all just a matter of marketing. We have wars to keep you safe from people who live in mud huts. And campaigns to keep a Muslim country from getting nuclear power when it's surrounded by countries that do have nuclear power. It's not what they do; it's what we say they will do.

Last year Zyprexa was Lilly's most profitable drug, racking up $4.7 billion in sales. God bless America, only in America (patriotic music here) could a drug totally ineffective at what it is being prescribed for become number one in sales!

The judge released 10,000 pages of documents that tell a tale of for-profit medicine as cold and calculating as robbing the fillings from a corpse. Revealed was a 2002 business plan encouraging sales reps to press doctors to prescribe the drug to elderly patients for insomnia and mood swings. Ironically, one of the suggested symptoms to treat was suspicion.

Lilly marketed the drug to primary care physicians and long-term care facilities. Ever seeking to expand the market they added the treatment to post traumatic stress disorder and sleep difficulties. By 2006 Lilly executives were rolling in cash and the company's goal was $6 billion in sales. In 2002, Lilly researcher Peter Feldman sent E-mails to his boss Denice Torres, the company's global marketing director.

He said that they were going to stop studying Zyprexa's potential health benefits for elderly consumers. That would risk "killing the goose that lays the golden eggs to save on poultry feed costs," Feldman said in the unsealed messages.

Ha ha, nothing better than a comic researcher, is there? Except maybe an all-business marketing director. "Elderly remains an important aspect of target PT and affiliate focus," Torres answered in the message.

"For two consecutive years, you have been on top and have turned in above-plan performance," Grady Grant, Lilly's national sales director, wrote to his salespeople in the newsletter.

"Once again you have all shown that (LTC) long term care is a driving force for Zyprexa in the US affiliate in 2002," Mike Murray, another Lilly executive, wrote in the newsletter. "We must continue to accelerate the growth of Zyprexa."

A nice pat on the head from the boss man and fat sales commissions can do wonders for sales.

One sales representative wrote in a March 7, 2003, note that she'd persuaded a doctor to write Zyprexa prescriptions for use in "elderly pts, help sleep and irritability." Another asked a doctor to try Zyprexa "in elderly who are not thinking clearly and are suspicious and hostile," according to an Aug. 31, 2001, note.

Only in America could not thinking clearly and being suspicious and hostile be considered a symptom! Using that logic you could drug most of this society. But were this just a case of selling sugar pills to Granny and Boom Pa it could be forgiven. America's shelves are full of medicines and pseudo medicines and treatments and supplements that at best might help a little, and at worst might deplete your wallet. But Zyprexa kills. Deaths for those taking Zyprexa were "significantly greater than placebo-treated patients (3.5 percent v. 1.5 percent, respectively)."

Now take $4.7 billion in annual sales and do the death math. But hey, they were making money, right? So who goes to jail? Go to jail? Why, nobody's going to jail, now or ever! This isn't about wild-eyed extremists filled with hate and rage answering God's call to kill. This is about nice capitalists in nice three-piece suits and ties killing the elderly for fun and profit. Illegally and immorally pushing a drug knowing full well in advance that it was dangerous and without any benefit to the patient.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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