Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2001

Eli Lilly CEO criticizes lawyers

September 8, 2001


— Eli Lilly and Co.'s president and chief executive lashed out at lawyers he said are inappropriately blaming Lilly in the case of a Kansas City pharmacist accused of diluting cancer drugs.

Sidney Taurel blamed trial-hungry lawyers for the 10 lawsuits that have been filed against the company so far, calling the lawsuits an attempt to gouge Lilly's supposed "deep pockets" for a potential damage award.

The Indianapolis drug maker also won't agree to any out-of-court settlements, Taurel told The Indianapolis Star on Thursday.

The pharmacist, Robert Courtney, was charged Aug. 14 with diluting chemotherapy drugs including Gemzar, which is made by the company. Several people have since sued Lilly, alleging it suspected the problems early last year but did not report them to law enforcement.

Taurel said that Lilly, because of the actions of one lawyer, has been transformed from the role of victim to being accused of improper conduct.

Taurel accused the two Kansas City firms that have sued Lilly of "preying on victims and creating even more anxiety for, basically, potential monetary gain."

Lilly said last week that sales representative Darryl Ashley did not begin to suspect the drugs were diluted until May 15 of this year, when he met with nurses for Dr. Verda Hunter, whose office received drugs from Courtney.

Ashley was looking into discrepancies between the amount of Gemzar that Courtney ordered and the amount he distributed. Ashley became suspicious when nurses told him they had not seen common side effects of chemotherapy.

The company said Ashley first saw data suggesting discrepancies in early 2000, but did not yet know whether to trust the data's accuracy.

Michael Ketchmark, the attorney for the plaintiffs suing Lilly, said the company should have come forward in May, at the latest. Ketchmark has filed nine of the lawsuits against Lilly in the case.

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