According to Medical News Today, drug company Eli Lilly has been accused of promoting its anti-psycotic drug olanzapine (branded as Zyprexa) to treat dementia. Zyprexa has been approved by the FDA to treat schizophrenia and, in some circumstances, bipolar disorder.
Medical News Today says:
It has been reported that a US lawyer handling the lawsuits of mentally ill patients is in receipt of internal marketing documents belonging to Eli Lilly that allegedly contain evidence of a longstanding campaign to influence doctors to prescribe Zyprexa for non-approved use, specifically to elderly patients with dementia.
The Mind Hacks blog adds:
When a drug is ‘licensed’, this is not a license to prescribe the drug, but a license for the drug company to advertise it for a specific condition. For example, olanzapine is licensed for schizophrenia, meaning it can be advertised as treatment for this condition. However, doctors have the freedom to prescribe the drug for anything they want to if they think it will help. This is known as ‘off-label’ prescribing.
That’s not all Eli Lilly has to worry about, as Red Herring reports:
Though the revelations of the weekend may sting, the knowledge that atypical anti-psychotics like Zyprexa may cause weight gain and increased blood sugar is well established. In 2003, the FDA issued an extra warning label for anti-psychotics that addressed the risks of hyperglycemia among patients, and issued another warning about the risks of death among elderly patients with dementia who took the drugs.
And Eli Lilly has settled more than 10,000 claims from patients taking Zyprexa, with 9,700 more pending. In statement released by the company in response to the Times allegations, it the company said that “from the day Lilly was [FDA approved], the labeling provided to physicians identified the clinically significant weight gain that was observed in more than half of all patients treated long-term with Zyprexa.