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Eli Lilly Slapped For Off-Label Drug Use

Almost four years ago, I warned you about Eli Lilly's osteoporosis drug Evista being promoted for treating heart disease, an off-label use and illegal one, according to a plea bargain between the company and the Justice Department.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker agreed to a $36 million fine for promoting Evista, not only as a heart disease treatment but as a breast cancer preventative. Makes you wonder if the common practice of off-label prescribing by doctors had anything to do with Evista sales increasing six-fold to $770 million since its debut eight years ago...

And, besides, $36 million is merely "chump change" as well as "reasonable" and "affordable" for a mega-drugmaker like Eli Lilly, according to one portfolio analyst.

Considering some 66 percent of the babies treated in medical wards in British hospitals and 90 percent in neonatal intensive care wards -- and face a higher risk of side effects to boot -- why aren't pharmaceutical companies punished more severely?

Perhaps, the real question worth asking: Why does our government work so hard to protect the business interests of the mega-drug companies at the expense of its taxpayers?

San Francisco Chronicle December 21, 2005

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