Eli Lilly denies NYT report on Zyprexa

NEW YORK Fri Mar 14, 2008 11:11pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co on Friday denied a report in The New York Times that said a senior executive had encouraged the promotion of its schizophrenia drug Zyprexa for a use not approved by federal regulators.

The report said John Lechleiter, set to become chief executive in April, wrote an e-mail in 2003 discussing the use of Zyprexa by children and teenagers, although it is only approved for adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Eli Lily said the report was "flat out wrong" and it mischaracterized Lechleiter's e-mail.

"Dr. Lechleiter's email was nothing more than a call to action to ensure Lilly's development organization placed a high priority on conducting clinical trials to address these important medical questions," it said in a statement.

The report comes as Lilly faces lawsuits involving marketing and side effects of the drug, including higher risk of diabetes, weight gain and heart problems.

The state of Connecticut sued the company on Tuesday, accusing it of illegally marketing and concealing its serious side effects. It faces similar accusations in Alaska.

Zyprexa, by far Lilly's biggest product, had sales of $4.76 billion in 2007, including U.S. sales of $2.24 billion.

Lilly was accused in Connecticut of promoting the drug for anxiety, depression and attention deficit disorder in children despite its not receiving FDA approval for those uses.

While doctors may prescribe medicines in any way they see fit, companies are allowed to promote them only for uses approved by U.S. health regulators.

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Ben Tan)