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Eli Lilly settles drug marketing dispute with states for $62M

North Carolina will receive $1.8 million from the deal, which settles claims of fraudulent marketing of Zyprexa, an antipsychotic drug.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Drug maker Eli Lilly & Co. has agreed to pay a record $62 million to North Carolina and 31 other states to resolve allegations that the company improperly marketed the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.

The settlement, the largest ever multi-state consumer protection settlement with a drug maker, comes five months after Cooper and other attorneys general reached a $58 million agreement with Merck regarding its painkiller Vioxx.

State officials allege that Eli Lilly marketed Zyprexa for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and failed to properly disclose the drug’s potential side-effects to health care providers.

Zyprexa belongs to a class of drugs, commonly referred to as atypical antipsychotics, traditionally used to treat schizophrenia. When these drugs were first introduced in the 1990s, experts thought that they would produce fewer problematic symptoms than other antipsychotics and therefore could be used for long-term treatment.

However, atypical antipsychotics can produce dangerous side-effects. Zyprexa has been associated with a high risk of weight gain, hyperglycemia and diabetes.

In 2001, Eli Lilly began an aggressive marketing campaign to market the drug for a number of off-label uses, including the treatment and restraint of elderly patients suffering from dementia and use of high doses in children.

“Using misleading marketing to pitch prescription drugs is just wrong,” Cooper said in a statement. “Consumers and doctors deserve the most accurate information available about drugs and their potentially dangerous side-effects.”

Following an 18-month investigation, Eli Lilly agreed to make major changes to how it markets Zyprexa and to stop promoting it to treat conditions for which it has not been approved, known as off-label uses.

North Carolina will receive $1.8 million of the $62 million settlement.