Imagine the following scenario. You go to the store to stock up on your weekly amenities. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. You pick up milk, bread, cereal, and shampoo and you make your way to the checkout line. Suddenly, a sales person stops you. He is trying to sell a new brand of tape. You aren’t interested in buying it but ask whether there’s anything else it can do. Then the salesman tells you that studies indicate this brand of tape isn’t just good for patching or fastening paper and other everyday tapeable items, but can also be wrapped around worn out cords with exposed live wires. It’s not a use the tape makers advertise, but he suggests you might want to try it out. You think about it and decide to buy the tape after all. Once you get home, you follow his advice and use it to fix up a live wire behind your television. It comes as a great surprise to you when your house burns down the next day.
Now imagine the tape is a bottle of pills. The salesman is a pharmaceutical company. You are a doctor. Your house is a patient. The live wire is an illness you are trying to treat.
You may not know they’re doing it, but pharmaceutical employees trying to market new drugs for physicians to prescribe do this all the time. They tell the good doctor (we’ll call him Dr. Pepper for the purposes of this scenario) about the risks and benefits officially associated with a drug. By law, they are not allowed to share any extra information of their own design without being prompted. However, if the sale is going poorly and Dr. Pepper happens to ask whether the drug has any additional uses, the salesman may indicate uses for the drug that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The scary thing is that you have no way of knowing when this goes on. The scarier thing is that, sometimes, your doctor doesn’t know either.
It’s a fine line, but as long as the uses of the drug are not technically introduced as part of the primary sales pitch, extraneous information can be given to physicians by salespeople. This information can be taken by the doctor to mean that the drug he will be prescribing has been approved for other uses.
Take for exampleEli Lilly and Co., a pharmaceutical company responsible for marketing the anti-psychotic Zyprexa. The company pitched the drug to doctors for unapproved uses, resulting in suits brought by several states as well as over 900 individual suits brought by patients. The drug, which was approved for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was promoted as a treatment for dementia, attention-deficit disorder and other uses. As a result, some patients developed diabetes and heart problems. Eli Lilly settled similar federal claims for $1.42 billion in January. It has now settled lawsuits with three of thirteen states that sued.
Though Zyprexa has agreed to compensate patients who suffered after using the drug, the road from verdict to payment is a long one. The cases, which has been open since 2006, are still in progress today. Even those patients who were awarded settlements as early as 2007 have not necessarily been paid. Add to that the fact that the drug was first improperly marketed in 2000, and it is easy to see that former Zyprexa users have been suffering medically and financially for a decade.
For most people, the medical bills associated with developing heart problems or diabetes would preclude any possibility of taking on the expenses of a law suit. The legal process is tough enough; the stress of added bills are not options for many victimized patients. However, financial barriers should never prevent you from seeking justice. If you have been injured by a drug that was marketed under false pretenses, you can and should pursue legal action; Lawsuit funding can assist you with the costs related to your personal injury case so that you can survive, financially, until you receive your settlement.
Pharmaceutical companies should not get away with hurting you just because you can’t afford the process of getting compensation. Lawsuit Financial applauds the continuing success of the parties receiving settlements in the cases against Eli Lilly. Remember that not all prescribed drugs are intended to treat your particular illness. If you can, you should always read about FDA approved uses for any prescription medication you are given. You may not be able to prevent a desperate salesman from saying you should put scotch tape around a live wire, but by staying informed, you may avoid a house fire.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.