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Report: Eli Lilly Said to Play Down Risk

Eli Lilly has downplayed for about 10 years the risks associated with Zyprexa, which treats schizophrenia, The New York Times said on its Web site Sunday, citing internal documents from the drug maker and e-mail messages of its managers.

The documents, obtained from a lawyer for mentally ill patients, show Lilly executives kept data from doctors about the drug's tendencies to promote obesity and boost blood sugar, the newspaper said.

Zyprexa is Lilly's best-selling product. With sales of $4.2 billion last year, about 2 million people worldwide were taking the drug.

Thirty percent of patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, and some patients have reported putting on more than 100 pounds, according to information published by Lilly. But the internal documents, which cover the period from 1995 to 2004, show Lilly feared sales would be hurt if the company was open with doctors the drug's side effects, the paper said.

Lilly denied there was a connection between the drug and diabetes on Friday in a written response to questions about the documents, according to The New York Times. The drug maker said the documents had been taken out of context, the newspaper said.

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