updated 12/17/2006 6:02:08 PM ET 2006-12-17T23:02:08

Drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. has engaged in a decade-long effort to play down the health risks of Zyprexa, its best-selling medication for schizophrenia, according to internal Lilly documents and e-mail messages among top company managers, a published report said.

The documents, given to The New York Times by a lawyer representing mentally ill patients, show that Lilly executives kept important information from doctors about Zyprexas links to obesity and its tendency to raise blood sugar both known risk factors for diabetes, the newspaper said on its Web site Sunday.

Lillys own published data has shown that 30 percent of patients taking Zyprexa gain 22 pounds or more after a year on the drug, and some patients have reported gaining 100 pounds or more. But Lilly was concerned that Zyprexas sales would be hurt if the company was open with doctors about the fact that the drug might cause unmanageable weight gain or diabetes, according to the documents, which cover the period 1995 to 2004.

Zyprexa has become by far Lillys best-selling product, with sales of $4.2 billion last year, when about 2 million people worldwide took the drug, the newspaper said.

Critics, including the American Diabetes Association, have argued that Zyprexa, introduced in 1996, is more likely to cause diabetes than other widely used schizophrenia drugs. Lilly has consistently denied such a link, and did so again on Friday in a written response to questions about the documents.

The company defended Zyprexas safety, and said the documents had been taken out of context, according to The New York Times.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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