Eli Lilly, Zyprexa, & the Bush Family


than one journalist has uncovered corrupt connections between the
Bush Family, psychiatry, and Eli Lilly & Company, the giant
pharmaceutical corporation. While previous Lillygates have been
more colorful, Lilly’s soaking state Medicaid programs with
Zyprexa—its blockbuster, antipsychotic drug—may pack the
greatest financial wallop. Worldwide in 2003, Zyprexa grossed $4.28
billion, accounting for slightly more than one-third of Lilly’s
total sales. In the United States in 2003, Zyprexa grossed $2.63
billion, 70 percent of that attributable to government agencies,
mostly Medicaid.  

the exposure of any single Lilly machination—though sometimes
disrupting it—has not weakened the Bush-psychiatry-Lilly relationship.
In the last decade, some of the more widely reported Eli Lilly intrigues

  • Influencing
    the Homeland Security Act to protect itself from lawsuits 

  • Accessing confidential
    patient records for a Prozac sample mailing 

  • Rigging the
    Wesbecker Prozac-violence trial 

sample of those who have been on the Eli Lilly payroll includes: 

  • Former President
    George Herbert Walker Bush (one-time member of the Eli Lilly board
    of directors) 

  • Former CEO of
    Enron, Ken Lay (one-time member of the Eli Lilly board of directors) 

  • George W. Bush’s
    former director of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels (a former
    Eli Lilly vice president) 

  • George W. Bush’s
    Homeland Security Advisory Council member, Sidney Taurel (current
    CEO of Eli Lilly) 

  • The National
    Alliance for the Mentally Ill (a recipient of Eli Lilly funding)

2002, British and Japanese regulatory agencies warned that Zyprexa
may be linked to diabetes, but even after the FDA issued a similar
warning in 2003, Lilly’s Zyprexa train was not derailed, as
Zyprexa posted a 16 percent gain over 2002. The growth of Zyprexa
has become especially vital to Lilly because Prozac—Lilly’s
best-known product, which once annually grossed over $2 billion—having
lost its patent protection, continues its rapid decline, down to
$645.1 million in 2003. 

the same time regulatory agencies were warning of Zyprexa’s
possible linkage to diabetes, Lilly’s second most lucrative
product line was its diabetes treatment drugs (including Actos,
Humulin, and Humalog), which collectively grossed $2.51 billion
in 2003. Lilly’s profits on diabetes drugs and the possible
linkage between diabetes and Zyprexa is not, however, the most recent
Lillygate that Gardiner Harris broke about Zyprexa in the

York Times

on December 18, 2003. 

costs approximately twice as much as similar drugs and Harris reported
that state Medicaid programs—going in the red in part because
of Zyprexa— are attempting to exclude it in favor of similar,
less expensive drugs. Harris focused on the Kentucky Medicaid program,
which had a $230 million deficit in 2002, with Zyprexa being its
single largest drug expense at $36 million. When Kentucky’s
Medicaid program attempted to exclude it from its list of preferred
medications, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) fought
back. The nonprofit NAMI—ostensibly a consumer organization—bused
protesters to hearings, placed full-page ads in newspapers, and
sent faxes to state officials. What NAMI did not say at the time
was that the buses, ads, and faxes were paid for by Eli Lilly.

Silverstein, in

Mother Jones

in 1999, reported that NAMI
took $11.7 million from drug companies over a three and a half year
period from 1996 through 1999, with the largest donor being Eli
Lilly, which provided $2.87 million. Eli Lilly’s funding also
included loaning NAMI a Lilly executive, who worked at NAMI headquarters,
but whose salary was paid for by Lilly. Though NAMI’s linkage
to Lilly is a scandal to psychiatric survivors—whose journal


published copies of Big Pharma checks to NAMI—the
story didn’t have the widespread shock value that would elevate
it to Lillygate status. 

2002, Eli Lilly flexed its muscles at the highest level of the U.S.
government in an audacious Lillygate. The event was the signing
of the Homeland Security Act, praised by President George W. Bush
as a “heroic action” that demonstrated “the resolve
of this great nation to defend our freedom, our security and our
way of life.” Soon after the Act was signed,

New York Times

columnist Bob Herbert discovered what had been slipped into the
Act at the last minute and on November 25, 2002, he wrote, “Buried
in this massive bill, snuck into it in the dark of night by persons
unknown…was a provision that—incredibly—will protect
Eli Lilly and a few other big pharmaceutical outfits from lawsuits
by parents who believe their children were harmed by thimerosal.” 

is a preservative that contains mercury and is used by Eli Lilly
and others in vaccines. In 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics
and the Public Health Service urged vaccine makers to stop using
mercury-based preservatives. In 2001 the Institute of Medicine concluded
that the link between autism and thimerosal was “biologically
plausible.” By 2002, thim- erosal lawsuits against Eli Lilly
were progressing through the courts. The punchline of this Lillygate
is that, in June 2002, President George W. Bush had appointed Eli
Lilly’s CEO, Sidney Taurel, to a seat on his Homeland Security
Advisory Council. Ultimately, even some Republican senators became
embarrassed by this Lillygate and, by early 2003, moderate Republicans
and Democrats agreed to repeal this particular provision in the
Homeland Security Act. 

early 2003, “60 Minutes II” aired a segment on Lillygate
and Prozac. With Prozac’s patent having run out, Eli Lilly
began marketing a new drug, Prozac Weekly. Lilly sales representatives
in Florida gained access to “confidential” patient information
records and, unsolicited, mailed out free samples of Prozac Weekly.
How did Eli Lilly get its hands on these medical records? Regulations
proposed under Clinton and later implemented under Bush contained
a provision that gave health-care providers the right to sell a
person’s confidential medical information to marketing firms
and drug companies. Despite many protests against this proposal,
President Bush told Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson
to allow the new rules to go into effect. 


the most cinematic of all Lillygates culminated in 1997. The story
began in 1989 when Joseph Wesbecker—one month after he began
taking Prozac—opened fire with his AK-47 at his former place
of employment, killing 8 and wounding 12 before taking his own life.
British journalist John Cornwell covered the Louisville, Kentucky
trial for the


Sunday Times Magazine

, ultimately writing a book about it.

The Power to Harm

(1996) is not only about
a disgruntled employee becoming violent after taking Prozac, but
is also about Eli Lilly’s power to corrupt the judicial system. 

of Joseph Wesbecker sued Eli Lilly, claiming that Prozac had pushed
Wesbecker over the edge. The trial took place in 1994, but received
scant attention as the public was transfixed by the O.J. Simpson
spectacle. While Eli Lilly had been settling many Prozac violence
cases behind closed doors (more than 150 Prozac lawsuits had been
filed by the end of 1994), it was looking for a showcase trial that
it could win. Although a 1991 FDA “blue ribbon panel”
investigating the association between Prozac and violence had voted
not to require Prozac to have a violence warning label, by 1994
word was getting around that five of the nine FDA panel doctors
had ties to Big Pharma—two of them serving as lead investigators
for Lilly-funded Prozac studies. Thus, with the FDA panel now known
to be tainted, Lilly believed that Wesbecker’s history was
such that Prozac would not be seen as the cause of his mayhem. 

crucial component of the victims’ attorneys’ strategy
was for the jury to hear about Eli Lilly’s history of reckless
disregard. Victims’ attorneys especially wanted the jury to
hear about Lilly’s anti- inflamatory drug Oraflex, introduced
in 1982 but taken off the market three months later. A U.S. Justice
Department investigation linked Oraflex to the deaths of more than
100 patients and concluded that Lilly had misled the FDA. Lilly
was charged with 25 counts related to mislabeling side effects and
pled guilty—but in 1985, the Reagan-Bush Justice Department
saw fit to fine them a mere $25,000. 

the Wesbecker trial, Lilly attorneys argued that the Oraflex information
would be prejudicial and Judge John Potter initially agreed that
the jury shouldn’t hear it. However, when Lilly attorneys used
witnesses to make a case for Eli Lilly’s superb system of collecting
and analyzing side effects, Judge Potter said that Lilly had opened
the door to evidence to the contrary and ruled that the Oraflex
information would now be permitted. To Judge Potter’s amazement,
victims’ attorneys never presented the Oraflex evidence and
Eli Lilly won the case. Later, it was discovered that—in a
manipulation Cornwell described as “unprecedented in any Western
court”—Eli Lilly cut a secret deal with victims’
attorneys to pay them and their clients not to introduce the Oraflex
evidence. However, Judge Potter smelled a rat and fought for an
investigation. In 1997, Eli Lilly quietly agreed to the verdict
being changed from a Lilly victory to “dismissed as settled.” 

back further to 1992, Alexander Cockburn, in both the


and the

New Statesman

, was one of the first to connect
the dots between the Bush family and Eli Lilly. After George Herbert
Walker Bush left his CIA director post in 1977 and before becoming
vice president under Ronald Reagan in 1980, he was on Eli Lilly’s
board of directors. As vice president, Bush failed to disclose his
Lilly stock and lobbied hard on behalf of Big Pharma—especially
Eli Lilly. For example, Bush sought special tax breaks from the
IRS for Lilly and other pharmaceutical corporations that were manufacturing
in Puerto Rico. 

also reported on Mitch Daniels, then a vice president at Eli Lilly,
who in 1991 co-chaired a fundraiser that collected $600,000 for
the Bush-Quayle campaign. This is the same Mitch Daniels who in
2001 became George W. Bush’s Director of Management and Budget.
In June 2003, soon after Daniels departed from that job, he ran
for governor of Indiana (home to Eli Lilly headquarters). In a piece
in the



called “Delusional on
the Deficit,” Senator Ernest Hollings wrote, “When Daniels
left two weeks ago to run for governor of Indiana, he told the


that the government is ‘fiscally in fine shape.’
Good grief! During his 29-month tenure, he turned a so-called $5.6
trillion, 10-year budget surplus into a $4 trillion deficit—a
mere $10 trillion downswing in just two years. If this is good fiscal
policy, thank heavens Daniels is gone.” 

is one Eli Lilly piece of history so bizarre that if told to many
psychiatrists, one just might get diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic
and medicated with Zyrprexa. Former State Department officer John
Marks in

The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”:
The CIA and Mind Control, The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences

(1979)—along with the

Washington Post

(1985) and

New York Times

(1988)—reported an amazing story
about the CIA and psychiatry. A lead player was psychiatrist D.
Ewen Cameron, president of the American Psychiatric Association
in 1953. Cameron was curious to discover more powerful ways to break
down patient resistance. Using electroshock, LSD, and sensory deprivation,
he was able to produce severe delirium. Patients often lost their
sense of identity, forgetting their own names and even how to eat.
The CIA, eager to learn more about Cameron’s brainwashing techniques,
funded him under a project code-named MKULTRA. According to Marks,
Cameron was part of a small army of the CIA’s LSD-experimenting
psychiatrists. Where did the CIA get its LSD? Marks reports that
the CIA had been previously supplied by the Swiss pharmaceutical
corporation Sandoz, but was uncomfortable relying on a foreign company
and so, in 1953, the CIA asked Eli Lilly to make them up a batch
of LSD, which Lilly subsequently donated to the CIA. 


most important story about Eli Lilly is that Lilly’s two current
blockbuster psychiatric drugs—Zyprexa and Prozac—are,
in scientific terms, of little value. It is also about how Lilly
and the rest of Big Pharma have corrupted psychiatry, resulting
in the increasing medicalization of unhappiness. This diseasing
of our malaise has diverted us from examining the social sources
for our unhappiness—and implementing societal solutions. 

of the scientific community now acknowledges that the advantage
of Prozac and Prozac-like drugs over a sugar-pill placebo is slight—or

Prevention and Treatment

in 2002 defined it, “clinically
negligible.” When Prozac is compared to an active placebo (one
with side effects), then Prozac is shown to have, in scientific
terms, zero value. Moreover, many doctors and researchers now warn
us about the dangers of Prozac. Psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen’s

Prozac Backlash


documented “neurological
disorders including disfiguring facial and whole body tics indicating
potential brain damage…agitation, muscle spasms, and parkinsonism,”
and he stated that debilitating withdrawal occurs in 50 percent
of patients who abruptly come off Prozac and Prozac-like drugs. 

as Prozac and other SSRI drugs are no longer seen by many scientists
as an improvement in safety and effectiveness over the previous
class of antidepressants, psychiatry’s highly touted Zyprexa
(and other “atypical antipsychotics”) turns out to be
no great advance over the older problematic anti-ps ychotics such
as Haldol. Journalist Robert Whitaker, in

Mad in America

(2002), details how Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa research was biased
against the inexpensive Haldol and how claims of improved safety
of Zyprexa are difficult to justify. Whitaker reports that in drug
trials used by FDA reviewers, 22 percent of Zyprexa patients had
“serious” adverse effects as compared to 18 percent of
the Haldol patients. 

United States and other nations that have bought psychiatry’s
and Big Pharma’s explanations and treatments turn out to have
worse results with those diagnosed as psychotic than those nations
who are less enthusiastic about drugs and who care more about community.
In 1992, the World Health Organization (WHO), in a repeat of earlier
findings, found that so-called underdeveloped nations, which emphasize
community support rather than medications, have better results with
those diagnosed as psychotic than nations, which stress drug treatments.
In nations such as the United States, where 61 percent of those
diagnosed as psychotic were maintained on antipsychotic medications,
only 37 percent had full remission. While in India, Nigeria, and
Colombia, where only 16 percent of patients diagnosed as psychotic
were maintained on antipsychotic medications, approximately 63 percent
of patients had full remission. 

scientists are not certain about the reasons for these WHO findings,
two possible explanations are: (1) psychiatric drugs, even for the
most disturbed among us, are not the greatest long-term solution;
(2) community support, crucial to our mental health, does not lend
itself to commercialization. Thus, in areas such as mental health,
radically commercialized societies such as the United States are
backward societies. 

some mental health professionals insist that atypical antipsychotics
such as Zyprexa are a great advance, I’ve met few Zyprexa users
who agree. A few years ago, a well-read man with a professorial
manner in his early 60s, diagnosed by several other doctors as paranoid
schizophrenic, came to see me. He had, at various times, taken several
types of antipsychotic drugs and told me, laughing loudly between
each sentence, “I’m crazy on drugs and crazy off drugs.
Haldol helped me sleep and Zyprexa helped me sleep, but I hated
the Haldol and when I was on Zyprexa, I couldn’t take a shit
for three weeks. Now I don’t take any drugs and I can’t
sleep and I am a big pain-in-the ass, but I can remember better
what I read.” A few weeks later he told me, “It’s
all friendly fascism. Yes, friendly fascism. Was it you who told
me—or was it I who told you—that fascism is about the
complete integration of industry and government under a centralized
authority? Friendly fascism, right? I suppose I say ‘friendly
fascism’ too much, but you’re not Ashcroft and neither
am I, right? Don’t you agree that it’s all friendly fascism?”
Then he flashed a giant smile and said one more time, “Friendly
fascism, right, Bruce?”

Bruce E. Levine,
PhD, is a psychologist and author of

Commonsense Rebellion:
Taking Back Your Life from

Drugs, Shrinks, Corporations
and a World Gone Crazy

(New York-London: Continuum,