June 28, 2006

Antispychotics and Lawyers

You may have seen the advertisements on TV:  "if you've taken Zyprexa and have diabetes, call us, the legal team at..."


Before you take your patients off of Zyprexa in a misguided attempt at warding off litigation, consider the following:

1.  You can't be sued if there's no damage. In other words, you can't be sued because of the risk of diabetes, you can only be sued for diabetes.  No damage, no lawsuit.  If a patient gets diabetes, you catch it and act appropriately, you can't be sued.  If you take reasonable care (note the weight every, say, 6 months; follow blood sugars every, say, year-- more frequently if there is weight gain), not only have you shown above standard-of-care practice, but you're going to catch the problem and fix it-- so no lawsuit.

2.  The lawyers in these ads are trying for a class action-- against the company.  Class actions are not about the severity of drug side effects.  The class action requires  that the company (Lilly) knew about the risks, but purposefully hid these risks from doctors and the public.  (This is why there are no class actions against chemotherapy makers.)   But if the company hid the info, then the doctor couldn't be responsible for the diabetes, because the risk was hidden.  So the class action actually protects the doctor, in a sense.


3.  Here's a puzzler: consider the following by-product of these advertisements.  By soliciting patients who have taken Zyprexa and gotten diabetes, they are, essentially, telling people about the risk.  So a patient who develops diabetes sometime in the future may not be able to claim he didn't know about the risk, as the risks have now entered the public discourse.


Stop worrying about lawyers.  Worry about loose practice.

1 Comment