Sunday, June 17, 2007

Down Under Documents Zyprexa Cases

The Australian (Australia)
June 18, 2007 Monday
Aussies in class action on drug
BYLINE: Cath Hart
LOCAL; Pg. 7

PHARMACEUTICAL giant Eli Lilly faces a class action from a group of Australians claiming they have suffered dangerous or life-threatening side-effects including weight gain, pancreatitis and diabetes after taking the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa.

The class action, the first over the allegedly negative affects of Zyprexa outside the US, started on behalf of a 32-year-old Tweed Heads saxophonist who developed pancreatitis after taking the drug.

Brisbane law firm Nicol Robinson Halletts expanded the case into a class action after others claimed their health had been harmed by Zyprexa.

Lawyer Simon Harrison said his team hoped to link the Australian claims to a $1.2billion group of settlements by Eli Lilly in the US over 30,000 similar cases.

''We are presenting a class action in respect of alleged side-effects from the use of Zyprexa, some of which are life-threatening,'' Mr Harrison said.

''We'll be alleging Eli Lilly minimised or understated the risk, and we're dealing with associate attorneys in the US with a view to including the class action within the American settlements.

''The concern that we as plaintiff lawyers have is that information concerning the risks wasn't presented as soon as it should have been.''

Zyprexa, or olanzapine, is used to treat people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and has been available in Australia since mid-1997.

Mr Harrison said there were litigants from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, ''from middle-aged to early 20s'', who had metabolic disorders such as diabetes and pancreatitis.

A spokeswoman for Eli Lilly said the company was aware of the initial case but did not have details of the class action.

''Zyprexa remains an effective medication for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and its benefit-risk profile is not altered by this case,'' she said.

''An adverse event does not necessarily have a causal relationship to the medicine.''

Since April 1997, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has had reports of 40 deaths and 1231 adverse reactions among people taking Zyprexa.

Australian Medical Association federal counsellor Martin Nothling, a psychiatrist, said many of the problems associated with anti-psychotic medications could be avoided if the patient was ''intensely followed up'' by a treating psychiatrist.

''The benefits outweigh the risks,'' Dr Nothling said.

The figures, obtained by the Citizens Committee for Human Rights, co-founded by the Church of Scientology, show 53 cases of abnormal liver function in people taking Zyprexa, 87 cases of weight increase and more than 40 cases of metabolic disorders including diabetes and hyperglycemia.

The TGA did not respond to requests for comment.

 

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