Zyprexa News: Discovery Limited In Zyprexa Case

Discovery Limited In Zyprexa Case

Indianapolis Star - Jeff Swiatek

12/07/04 - A federal judge has told Eli Lilly and Co. to be ready for trial within a year to defend its star drug Zyprexa against charges in federal court that the drug causes diabetes and related problems.

The decision last week by Jack Weinstein, a federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, marks the first time he has set a deadline in the federal cases for both sides to finish the discovery phase, in which documents are turned over and witnesses deposed.

"By giving us a date for trial I think that was sending us a signal. The judge wanted this case to move," said Jerrold S. Parker, a member of the plaintiffs' steering committee for federal Zyprexa lawsuits, on Monday.

Weinstein's decision doesn't necessarily mean the first federal case will go to trial in December 2005, "but we heard him get ready," said Curt G. Oltmans, an associate general counsel for Lilly.

Weinstein oversees the early stages of about 72 federal Zyprexa lawsuits consolidated in his court. Most have been filed since the Food and Drug Administration in 2003 required Lilly and other makers of schizophrenia drugs to warn doctors and patients of the drugs' link with obesity and high blood pressure and to tell doctors to monitor patients for those conditions.

In a court filing last month, plaintiffs' attorneys complained to the judge about "Lilly's abysmally slow production of documents" and "significant redactions" or blacked-out wording, in the internal documents that were turned over.

"Many of the redactions appear to be entirely improper," the attorneys said.

Weinstein's decision would require Lilly and plaintiffs' attorneys to speed up the discovery process by reviewing millions of pages of Lilly documents that could become part of a trial a year from now.

Lilly has contracted with about 30 outside attorneys and legal reviewers to catalog, sort and review stacks of documents that plaintiffs' attorneys want to see, Oltmans said.

"It's a very complex process," he said.

Another 50 or so Zyprexa cases have been filed against Lilly in state courts and aren't part of the consolidated federal lawsuits. The earliest a state case could come to trial is mid-2005, Oltmans said.

The first case to come to trial in such drug-liability lawsuits can strongly influence outcomes of the rest of the pending cases, so both sides typically put an all-out effort into winning the first case.

"Everyone will look very closely" at the first Zyprexa trial, Oltmans said.

Similar lawsuits also have been filed against the makers of two other drugs in Zyprexa's class, Risperdal from Johnson & Johnson and Seroquel, sold by AstraZeneca.

A request to create a class- action lawsuit by multiple plaintiffs against the maker of Seroquel was rejected earlier this year by a federal judge in Florida.

Plaintiffs' attorneys also hope to make Zyprexa a class-action case.

Zyprexa generated about a third of Lilly's $12 billion in sales last year.

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