Local Attorneys Help Hit Drugmaker Hard

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$800 million is a ton of money to settle a civil suit, but two Houston attorneys helped win a settlement of that size this morning.

Joel Androphy, who specializes in whistleblower suits, worked with Sarah Frazier and won a big one as the drug giant Eli Lilly agreed to pay that whopping amount to settle a civil suit over its development of the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. Lilly will pay another $615 million to settle a related criminal case.

Zyprexa is a drug approved for use against bipolar disorder; Lilly marketed it for dementia and also for children (because you just can't give enough drugs to children).

"Illegal marketing of drugs, especially to children, largely goes undetected and unprosecuted by the government," Androphy tells Hair Balls. "The False Claims Act provides financial incentives and employment protection to whistleblowers who courageously come forward with their complaints. Our client, we are proud to say, was one of those whistleblowers."

Androphy and Frazier's client exposed Lilly's marketing to kids "and in higher-than-recommended doses to adults," Androphy says.

Lilly also "encouraged physicians by means of monetary payments," a press release said, which is pretty sedate language for what the rest of us might call payola.

Androphy and Frazier won't be buying a yacht anytime soon. There were other whistleblowers in the case, and the federal rules involving these so-called "qui tam" suits limit how much attorneys get.

Of the civil settlement, $438 million will go to the federal governemnt, and up to $362 million to states included in the settlement.

Update: Texas AG Greg Abbott weighs in on the settlement:

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today resolved an enforcement action against Eli Lilly & Co. that will recover more than $30 million in Medicaid funds for the state of Texas in a state/federal government share. Under today's agreement, the Indiana-based company has agreed to pay $800 million to Texas, the federal government and other states for unlawfully marketing its antipsychotic prescription drug, Zyprexa. To resolve the related criminal charges, the company also pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and agreed to pay a $615 million criminal fine. Altogether, Lilly will pay $1.4 billion to resolve the combined state and federal enforcement actions.

-- Richard Connelly

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