At the end of bad week for Lilly The British Medical Journal has issued an apology to Eli Lilly & Company and retracted allegations that the drug company withheld documents suggesting a link between Prozac and a heightened risk of suicide attempts and violence. “The BMJ accepts that Eli Lilly acted properly in relation to the disclosure of these documents,” the journal said in a statement that appeared on its Web site last week. “The BMJ is happy to set the record straight and to apologize to Eli Lilly for this statement, which we now retract, but which we published in good faith.”

In December the BMJ published a report claiming they had received documents from an anonymous source indicating that Eli Lilly was aware in the 1980s that Prozac could have potentially troubling side effects. According to the original article, the internal documents “went missing” prior to a 1994 lawsuit.

Lilly CEO Sidney Taurel said in a statement, “We were disturbed by the initial BMJ article that inaccurately reported about Prozac and made negative inferences regarding our company’s conduct … We accept the apology and retraction.”

BMJ Editor Kamram Abbasi has publicly restricted the journal’s retraction to allegations that the documents disappeared prior to a 1994 lawsuit brought by relatives and victims of Joseph Wesbecker, who killed eight co-workers before turning the gun on himself at the Louisville printing plant where he worked.

“All we have retracted is the statement that these documents went missing,” Abbasi told CNN.

The journal turned over all the documents it received to the Food and Drug Administration, including internal documents the BMJ claimed showed Lilly had excluded 76 of 97 cases of reported suicide attempts from the studies submitted to gain FDA approval of Prozac.

The retraction of the British Medical Journal claims came at the end of an overall bad news week for Lilly.

On Jan. 28, the pharmaceutical company withdrew its application seeking FDA approval to market its anti-depressant drug Cymbalta as treatment for stress urinary incontinence. The move came in advance of a predicted FDA rejection of the application.

Additionally, allegations of side effect concerns and declining revenues of the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa are blamed in large part for disappointing 2004 sales released on Jan. 26.

The company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $2.4 million, compared with a net profit of $747 million during the same period in 2003.

While the company’s stock has bounced back from a low of $50.44 last October, the current share value of $54.91 remains significantly below a high of $76.95 in June.


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