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Two Days of Hearings End on Eli Lilly Status of Zyprexa Files

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Jim Gottstein, Vera Sherav, David Oaks and others testify during two days of court hearings in Brooklyn in front of Judge Weinstein about whether Eli Lilly's files about Zyprexa can be disclosed to the public.

by David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom

Let me tell you, it can be hard to hear some of the folks in a teleconferenced court hearing when I'm here in our Oregon office, listening in to a Brooklyn court room.

But today -- the second day of hearings, 17 January -- the sound quality was better. The court continued to hear testimony by Jim Gottstein with cross examination. This was largely technical, about whether or not Jim had obtained and released these files about Zyprexa in a legal way.

Vera SharavThen the court room woke up when Vera Sherav (photo on right) of the group Alliance for Human Research Protection got on the stand. Now, I was just taking notes over the phone so I may not have gotten her words exactly right, but Vera actually got to the point about the contents of the files, and she was passionate.

Vera said emphatically, "People are dying from these drugs... Getting these documents is very important to me." Vera talked about sharing the information, such as with a Wall St. Journal reporter.

Vera said, "These documents show that Eli Lilly knew Zyprexa causes diabetes. They knew from a doctor they hired. Instead of warning doctors who are widely prescribing the drug, Eli Lilly set about an aggressive marketing campaign. Little children are being given these drugs. Little children are being exposed to horrific diseases that are ending their lives. And to continue to conceal these facts from the public... it's just a safety issue!"

Vera agreed this kind of human rights advocacy work is her "life calling."

More than once Eli Lilly moved to strike one of Vera's passionate statements from the record, but the judge overruled the attorney saying that Vera's testimony showed her "state of mind."

And her state of mind was fixed on justice.

Vera said, "Eli Lilly marketed it for off-label uses which is against the law. They told doctors and essentially concealed vital information, and sugar-coated it, which you can see in the sales of the drug. The drug was approved for very limited conditions -- schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The reason the drug became a $4.5 billion best seller is because Lilly encouraged prescriptions to children and the elderly, for all sorts of reasons. The drug is being prescribed irresponsibly because doctors have not been told the truth."

Vera went on to point out that, "Major studies by the National Institute of Mental Health validate this. The CATIE study by NIMH has been published and they collaborate the harm being done by these atypical antipsychotics. Leading psychiatrists who had been fans of these drugs are now saying, 'We were fooled.' It isn't just weight gain. Zyprexa is causing 'metabolic syndrome' which is a cluster of life-threatening problems."

Again Eli Lilly tried to strike, but again the judge overruled, saying it shows her state of mind.

Vera was asked if the documents were trade secrets.  "Absolutely not. What it showed is why they were willing to spend so much money to keep this concealed."

I was not going to be called as a witness, with the agreement of the lawyers for those named in the Temporary Restraining Order. But unexpectedly at the end, Eli Lilly called me as the final witness.

I'm glad, because it was a chance to clear the record about reckless and false and unprofessional charges Eli Lilly had made in some of the filings: I was able to testify that MindFreedom had never received the files from Jim Gottstein, that we had never disseminated them, and that we had not set up any links or web sites or wikis to disseminate them. I testified that I didn't seek anonymity when posting to e-mail lists or web sites. I was able to testify that we had never conspired with Jim about releasing the files or what ought to be done with them. I testified that we had not disseminated the documents and I was able to point out that MindFreedom was reporting as an advocacy group.

I took special satisfaction in disposing of a lie Eli Lilly had stated in a court document. Eli Lilly had said,  "People collaborating with Mr. Gottstein, Mr. Oaks,  and MFI have another web site on reserve ("  I was able to say we were not collaborating and had never set up that or any other web site to download the documents. The attorney said he hadn't said that, but I quoted the exact quote back to him.

I established that we complied with the court order immediately upon receiving it in every way possible.

At that point the judge said it was time to set a schedule to get briefs, which is now set over the next three weeks. Judge Weinstein said he didn't want to be overwhelmed with huge briefs, he wanted concise arguments. And from Eli Lilly he wanted to know exactly what documents they considered to be harmful to have in the public domain.

In early February it sound like the judge may make his final decision.

All in all I'm tremendously proud of MindFreedom -- especially our attorney and hero in our movement, Ted Chabasinski -- and the social justice movement for human rights in the mental health system. We stood up to one of the richest corporations in the history of the world.

If you know Ted's personal story, then you know why it was an especially significant day today. Thanks everyone.

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