(Updates with company comment in third paragraph.)
Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Eli Lilly & Co. isn’t responsible for the death of college student who was taking the drugmaker’s Zyprexa antipsychotic medication, a jury ruled in the first case to go to trial over the drug.
Jurors in state court in Los Angeles deliberated about 11 hours over two days before clearing Lilly of responsibility for the 2007 death of Cody Tadai, a 20-year-old community college student who succumbed to diabetes-related illnesses while taking Zyprexa for mental illness. His family alleged the company hid the drug’s diabetes risks to protect sales.
“We are pleased the jury recognized that Lilly met its duty to warn about the risks of Zyprexa,” Stefanie Prodouz, a Lilly spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.
It’s the first verdict in a Zyprexa case since litigation over the antipsychotic drug, the drugmaker’s top seller, began more than eight years ago. Indianapolis-based Lilly, which lost patent protection on Zyprexa last month, has paid out about $2.9 billion to resolve government and individual claims over its marketing of the medication.
Lilly agreed in 2009 to pay $1.42 billion to settle federal prosecutors’ allegations that it illegally marketed Zyprexa for unapproved uses. The drugmaker also agreed to pay more than $260 million to resolve similar state claims. The company has agreed to pay more than $1.2 billion to settle about 31,000 suits by former users of the drug.
Prodouz declined to comment Nov. 1 on why the drugmaker decided to make the Tadai family’s Zyprexa suit the first to go to trial. The drug was Lilly’s top seller last year with more than $5 billion in sales.
The drugmaker still faces about 40 Zyprexa suits that include claims from about 110 former users of the drug, Lilly executives said in an Oct. 28 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Jurors in Los Angeles Superior Court found Lilly officials adequately warned doctors and patients about Zyprexa’s risks and the drugmaker didn’t conceal information about the drug’s side effects from Tadai’s doctors, according to the verdict form in the case.
Tadai’s family alleged Lilly officials withheld information about the side effects of Zyprexa, such as diabetes and weight gain, and encouraged sales of the drug for unapproved, or off- label, purposes.
Their lawyers also argued that Lilly trained its sales force to “neutralize” any questions or concerns about Zyprexa’s links to weight gain or diabetes in users and to tout its superiority to competing drugs that required blood monitoring.
Randy Tadai, the student’s father, said the family brought the case to draw attention to the dangers of the drug. He added that while he was disappointed with the jury’s finding, the family would “have to accept the decision of the court.”
Lilly’s lawyers argued in the case that Tadai’s family had a history of diabetes and said Zyprexa played no role in his development of the disease. They also sought to convince jurors that the drugmaker properly warned doctors and patients about Zyprexa’s diabetes risk in 2003, the year the student began taking the medication.
“Lilly is sorry for the family’s loss, but the facts didn’t point to either Zyprexa or Lilly as the cause” of the college student’s death, Prodouz said in the statement.
The case is Cody Tadai v. Eli Lilly & Co., BC 379020, California Superior Court (Los Angeles County).
--With assistance from Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan. Editors: Mary Romano, Peter Blumberg
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