Eli Lilly and Company is one of the oldest pharmaceutical companies in the world. It was founded in 1876 by a pharmacist, who was also a veteran of the Civil War. Colonel Eli Lilly was frustrated by the lack of appropriate and effective medications during that time. The first innovations developed by Eli Lilly and Company included gelatin coatings for pills and capsules, sugar coating for pills and flavorings for liquid medications making them easier to take.
The first employees of the company were primarily members of the Lilly family – including his son Josiah who later became President of the company. Col. Lilly’s son and grandsons each served as successive presidents of the company, keeping the management of Lilly within the family for over 100 years. The company mission was to develop pharmaceuticals of the highest quality and to promote management from within. Eli Lilly and Company went public in 1952 and expanded to locations in South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The first non-Lilly CEO was hired in 1993 after the company’s first quarterly loss.
Eli Lilly was originally known for its quality medications and hired its entire promotional staff from a pool of pharmacists to ensure that the sales representatives were well versed in pharmacology and chemistry of the medications they were detailing.
Eli Lilly is credited with the development of insulin to treat diabetes, became a major producer of antibiotics and anti-infectives, and expanded into animal health with the development of Elanco, the veterinary division. Lilly has since expanded into central nervous system, oncology, hematology and cardiac medications, while maintaining a large presence in the diabetes market.
Lily has been involved in a number of acquisitions and mergers as well as co-marketing agreements. Some of Lilly’s products have been highly successful including well-known medications such as the insulin line, penicillin products, cephalosporin antibiotics such as Keflex and Ceclor, anti-depressants such as Prozac and Cymbalta and recently, medications for ED such as Cialis, a testosterone product Axiron and an antipsychotic medication Zyprexa.
Though many of Lilly’s products have been highly successful, some of the medications have been shown to cause serious injury, leaving Eli Lilly facing a number of lawsuits regarding those medications. In 2013, Eli Lilly and Company reported over $23 billion in global revenue.
Eli Lilly Current Products
Eli Lilly currently produces, markets or distributes over 43 drugs in the US, with 6 drugs in the top 100. The top selling drug, Cymbalta (duloxetine) a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor for depression, had US sales of over $5 billion in 2013 and has brought over $24 billion in revenue since its introduction in 2004. Cymbalta, like other medications produced by Eli Lilly may have caused serious injury and could be the subject of medical injury lawsuits.
Cymbalta (duloxetine) – a SNRI medication for the treatment of depression has been shown to cause serious withdrawal effects such as severe nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headaches, nightmares and electric shock sensations in the brain, known as “brain-zaps”. Cymbalta labeling indicates that these effects occur in less than 1 percent of patients, however Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, Joseph Glenmullen stated that the percentage of patients experiencing withdrawal effects may be as high as 78 percent and Lilly’s own research shows that withdrawal effects are severe in 10 to 17 percent of patients.
Cialis (tadalafil) – similar to Viagra, is used for erectile dysfunction. Cialis, like Viagra may cause Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Neuropathy – resulting in blindness. Because it is similar to other ED medications, it may also cause a sudden loss of hearing and may contribute to cardiac death. No direct link between Cialis use and skin cancer has yet been shown.
Effient (prasugrel) – one of a newer type of anticoagulant medications that may worsen existing cancer. It may also cause serious adverse events related to bleeding, similar to those seen with Pradaxa as there is no antidote or testing required for its use.
Zyprexa (olanzapine) – an “atypical” antipsychotic used for schizophrenia and psychotic episodes associated with other mental disorders. Zyprexa may cause a potentially fatal heart abnormality and has been linked to an increased rate of the development of diabetes.
Axiron (testosterone) – a male hormone used for “Low-T”. It is approved for men with hypogonadism who have lower than normal levels of testosterone, though many men who use the medication may not have had their testosterone levels checked. Testosterone replacement therapy with Axiron has been shown to increase the heart attack and stroke risk and to result in the development of fatal blood clots.
Tradjenta (linagliptin) and Jentadueto (linagliptin/metformin) – linagliptin is one of a group of anti-diabetic medications which may cause the development of pancreatic diseases. Other members of this class include Januvia and Byetta. In addition, metformin may increase the risk of heart failure and has been linked to vitamin B12 and cognitive deficiency in the elderly.
Strattera (atomoxetine) – used to treat ADHD, atomoxetine has been linked to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, ideations and behavior. Strattera’s labeling has also been updated to include a risk of severe liver failure.
Eli Lilly Lawsuits
Eli Lilly faces a number of lawsuits for multiple products, some of which have resulted in settlements of thousands of dollars for the victims. Notable Eli Lilly lawsuits include:
Actos – produced by the Japanese pharmaceutical company, Takeda. Actos (pioglitazone), used for diabetes, was co-marketed by Eli Lilly from 1999 to 2009 in the US. Both companies face thousands of lawsuits for injuries such as congestive heart failure and bladder cancer. Learn more here.
Byetta – originally produced in conjunction with Amylin Pharmaceuticals and used for diabetes. Exenatide, the active ingredient may have caused pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Lilly is no longer in partnership with Amylin but both companies face multiple lawsuits stemming to pre-2011 use.
Zyprexa – Lilly was the subject of the largest criminal fine in pharmaceutical history for its illegal marketing of olanzapine for dementia and pediatric use when it was approved for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in adults. Lilly paid $1.42 billion in criminal penalties and civil lawsuits. Another $62 million has been paid to litigants in 32 states and more lawsuits are pending.
Prozac – one of the most famous drugs of all-time. Prozac was attributed with a high risk of suicide and Eli Lilly paid over $50 million by the year 2000 for multiple lawsuits regarding Prozac use. In addition, Prozac use is suspected of causing birth defects in pregnant women, though the company has not admitted to liability in lawsuits related to Prozac birth defects.
Symbyax – a combination of the active ingredients in Prozac and Zyprexa. Lilly faces lawsuits regarding birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, anencephaly, spina bifida and club foot.
Axiron – testosterone replacement therapy has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clot development, and death. Axiron is the second best-selling testosterone product on the market and many manufacturers of testosterone replacement products are facing hundreds of lawsuits regarding injury and death.
Cymbalta – used to treat depression. Cymbalta has been shown to cause severe withdrawal effects in some patients. Lilly has been accused of misleading consumers and the medical community about the likelihood and severity of possible withdrawal effects. Lilly faces a growing number of lawsuits regarding Cymbalta withdrawal.
Though notable lawsuits have not been filed for Lilly drugs such as Effient, Strattera, Cialis and Tradjenta, these drugs belong to classes of medications that have caused serious injury and resulted in lawsuits.
Patients who were seriously injured by a medication may be eligible to receive monetary award of damages relating to medical costs, permanent disability, loss of work, pain and suffering and may also be eligible for punitive damages in some cases.