DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today the state of Colorado has received more than $2.6 million as part of a settlement with Eli Lilly and Company to halt its fraudulent promotion of off-label uses of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa. Colorado’s share of the settlement was facilitated by the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
“This award is a significant victory in our efforts to combat Medicaid fraud in Colorado,” Suthers said. “This multistate settlement sends a clear message to pharmaceutical companies that we will vigorously pursue them when their business models unfairly burden public health programs underwritten by Colorado taxpayers.”
Colorado’s $2.6 million award is its share of a multistate settlement totaling more than $1.4 billion. The settlement resolves allegations that Eli Lilly and Company promoted the use of Zyprexa through various ad campaigns, including the “Viva Zyprexa” and “5 at 5” campaigns, for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including the treatment of depression, anxiety, irritability, nausea and gambling addiction. Though physicians are free to prescribe medication for off-label uses, pharmaceutical companies are generally barred from marketing their products for unapproved uses. Colorado and other states’ Medicaid programs typically do not cover drugs prescribed for off-label uses.
Eli Lilly and Company also were suspected of using gifts to influence physicians decisions to prescribe Zyprexa to patients, including children and adolescents, dementia patients in long-term care facilities and in unapproved dosage amounts. In some cases, Medicaid programs footed the bill for these unapproved uses of Zyprexa.
As part of the settlement, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will monitor Eli Lilly and Company’s future marketing and sales practices.