Lechleiter: Too Dumb to Be Lilly CEO?
In the ongoing proceedings of the state of Alaska v. Eli Lilly,* it was revealed that Lilly CEO-to-be John C. Lechleiter wrote a company e-mail in 2003 that encouraged the off-label promotion of Zyprexa (olanzapine) to pediatricians and child psychiatrists, according to a late-breaking report from the NYT.
Now it is not news that pharma clandestinely markets its drugs for off-label use, but for a company executive to urge off-label promotion in an e-mail is colossally stupid. Lechleiter’s allegedly proposed off-label marketing strategy, according to the NYT, was to discuss the potential use of olanzapine in children (for whom the drug is not FDA approved), when reps were already promoting Strattera (atomoxetine) for attention-deficit disorder. The NYT also reports that, in the e-mail, Lechleiter encouraged the off-label promotion of olanzapine to neurologists for pain.
In a feeble shot at damage control, a Lilly spokesperson indicated that Lechleiter “was not advocating off-label promotion in his note but simply wanted the company to respond to physicians’ requests for information,” wrote the NYT. Drug reps can respond to unsolicited requests from physicians for off-label information.
The Lechleiter e-mail will not be presented to jurors in the Alaska trial, because the claim seeking damages for off-label olanzapine promotion was dismissed.
In related news, former olanzapine rep Shamram Ahari testified before the Senate Aging Committee about Lilly’s alleged sales practices. If this PharmedOut video is any indication, Ahari’s probably a very compelling witness.
*Alaska wants Lilly to reimburse its state Medicaid costs for individuals who developed diabetes while taking olanzapine.