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Zyprexa: Incoming CEO Allegedly Pushed For Off-Label Marketing Of Zyprexa For Kids In 2003
March 14, 2008

Alex Berenson at the New York Times has a piece that just hit the paper's website detailing an email that was presented in the Alaska v. Lilly Zyprexa trial earlier this week. In the email, according to the Times, John Lechleiter, a then Lilly VP who's soon to become the company's CEO, did the following:

"In the message, Dr. Lechleiter, who was then the company’s executive vice president for pharmaceutical products, noted to other Lilly officials that company representatives were already promoting Strattera, a second Lilly psychiatric drug, to pediatricians and child psychiatrists. The representatives could also discuss Zyprexa with such doctors, he said.
"'The fact we are now talking to child psychs and peds and others about Strattera means that we must seize the opportunity to expand our work with Zyprexa in this same child-adolescent population,' Dr. Lechleiter wrote in the message. He also encouraged Lilly to get data on the use of Zyprexa in treating 'disruptive kids' in order to increase the drug’s sales."

The drug is not approved for use in children. It's not approved for use among "disruptive" adults even. To think that a high company official would press for Zyprexa's use in children with ADHD (meaning mostly boys) is simply disgusting, given what the company knew about this drug in 2003.

Lilly responded to the paper:

"A spokesman for Eli Lilly said Dr. Lechleiter, an organic chemist, was not advocating off-label promotion in his note but simply wanted the company to respond to physicians’ requests for information. The company declined to make Dr. Lechleiter available for comment."
Interestingly, the trial jury did not get to hear about the email since the off-label marketing portion of Alaska's lawsuit was thrown out recently. But there it was being discussed in open court (with the jury excused) and Berenson seized upon it. I'm sure the Drug Wonks crowd will deem that a reportorial breach somehow.

Lechleiter is scheduled to become Lilly's new CEO on April 1.

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