CITY NEWS SERVICE
Eli Lilly and Co. should pay $40 million to a couple because one of its top-selling drugs played a substantial role in the death of their 20-year-old son, who developed diabetes-related symptoms and ballooned to nearly 300 pounds, a lawyer told a Los Angeles jury Friday.
Delivering his final argument in trial of the products liability lawsuit brought against the pharmaceutical company by Randy and Eiko Tadai, attorney Ronald Makarem showed before-and-after photos of the divorced couple’s late son, Cody. In the first, he weighed about 200 pounds, and in the second 280 pounds.
The later photo was taken in December 2006, three months before his death and after 1 1/2 years of taking Zyprexa for treatment of autism and aggressive behavior.
“Now that’s a clinically significant amount of weight,” Makarem said. “I think that’s all you need to see right here. That’s Zyprexa in action right here.”
The suit filed in October 2007 by the Tadais alleges that Eli Lilly knew patients like their son had an increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions after taking Zyprexa, including weight gain, diabetes sand hyperglycemia, but led doctors to believe the side effects were no worse than any other drug.
Eli Lilly attorney Andrew Rogoff told jurors that Cody Tadai’s physician, Dr. Koichi Ishikawa, knew of the potential side effects of Zyprexa, but failed to monitor his patient’s progress on the drug or do follow-up blood-sugar tests.
Rogoff also said Eli Lilly sales representatives are forthright when pitching products to doctors.
“Lilly tells doctors what the risks and benefits are,” Rogoff said in his closing argument. “Do you think a pharmaceutical company wants to put out medication that makes people sick?”
Cody Tadai had a weight problem long before he began taking Zyprexa, and his family had a history of diabetes, according to Rogoff.
The Tadais allege that after their son died in 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly to change the Zyprexa warning label to include language warning physicians that the drug has a greater association with increased blood glucose levels, which causes diabetes.
The Tadais maintain that Ishikawa would have not have given Zyprexa to their son had current warning information regarding potential side effects been in place at the time.
Makarem told jurors there is a far greater likelihood Cody Tadai’s diabetes was caused by Zyprexa than other drugs he was taking. In his closing remarks, he read a statement written by Cody Tadai before he died in which he acknowledged his medical issues, but did his best to deal with them.
Makarem said he read the statement because he believed it would have been too difficult emotionally to ask Eiko Tadai to do so during her testimony.
Rogoff said Eli Lilly gave warnings about Zyprexa’s possible side effects in 2003 and that Ishikawa probably would have prescribed the drug for Cody Tadai even if the label had been different.
Makarem disputed that and also claimed the company’s sales representatives failed to fully inform physicians about the potential for weight gain among users.
“They knew about it from 1996 and they tried to hide it from the doctors,” he said.