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Originally published November 2 2009

CVS Drug Store Company Caught in Hidden Drug-Pushing Deal to Promote Zyprexa for Money

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A pharmacy benefits manager (PMB) for drug store chain CVS entered a secret agreement with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to promote the company's antipsychotic Zyprexa to doctors, according to internal documents revealed as part of an insurance industry lawsuit against the drug maker.

Advance PCS, a unit of CVS, agreed to send unsolicited mail to doctors promoting Zyprexa, even though it was under contract at the time to represent health insurers by gaining the most favorable possible drug prices from Lilly.

"The problem is that PBMs are negotiating these hidden deals while at the same time telling employers that they represent them at the negotiating table," said former PBM executive Gerry Purcell. "These documents will add fuel to the perception that the companies and the PBMs are in cahoots with each other."

"This is the kind of stuff the drug companies and the PBMs hate to see get out."

Lilly is being sued for illegally marketing Zyprexa for unapproved uses, especially for dementia, and for concealing its side effects of diabetes and dangerous weight gain. Unsealed documents have also revealed that the company hired ghostwriters to author favorable studies on the drug. The insurance companies allege that they drastically overpaid due to these practices.

Zyprexa costs significantly more than the generic antipsychotic haloperidol, by $3,000 to $9,000 per year.

According to the unsealed documents, Advance PCS offered in 2004 to send doctors letters about Zyprexa based on "the most recent ... data" on their prescribing habits -- in other words, selectively target doctors who were treating people with mental illness. Another PBM, Express Scripts, also sent out the letters.

"There's no question that these folks are all in bed together," said Richard Beck of the Texas Pharmacy Business Council. "They make these deals and never disclose them. It's the clearest example of a conflict of interest I can think of."

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