Jeff Weise, teen slayer of ten, including himself, at the Red Lake Indian reservation in northern Minnesota, was on Prozac, prescribed by some doc.
The minute the high command at Eli Lilly, manufacturer of Prozac, saw those news stories about Weise you can bet they went into crisis mode, and only began to relax when Weise’s web surfs of neo-Nazi sites took over the headlines. Hitler trumps Prozac every time, particularly if it’s an Injun teen ranting about racial purity.
How many times, amid the carnage of such homicidal sprees, do investigators find a prescription for antidepressants at the murder scene? Luvox at Columbine, Prozac at Louisville, Kentucky, where Joseph Wesbecker killed nine, including himself. You’ll find many such stories in the past fifteen years.
By now the Lilly defense formula is pretty standardized: self-righteous handouts about the company’s costly research and rigorous screening, crowned by the imprimatur of that watchdog for the public interest, the FDA. And of course there’s the bogus comfort of numbers; if Lilly’s pill factory had a big sign like McDonald’s, it could boast PROZAC: MILLIONS SERVED.
Each burst in the sewage pipe brings a new challenge to Lilly’s sales force, which has had some heavy hitters down the years, including George Herbert Walker Bush (onetime member of the Lilly board of directors); former Enron CEO Ken Lay (onetime member of the board); George W. Bush’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mitch Daniels (a former senior vice president); George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council member Sidney Taurel (a Lilly CEO); and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (a recipient of Lilly funding).
At the turn of this year there was a five-alarm incident when the British Medical Journal went back to the 1994 Wesbecker suit against Lilly, reminding the world that the company had been involved in some shifty footwork involving a backdoor payoff to the plaintiffs. The deal successfully excluded from Judge John Potter’s courtroom the regulatory case history of Oraflex, a highly compromised Lilly product, which displayed the company’s submissions to the FDA in a disgusting light.
Lilly rose to the challenge, successfully persuading gullible journalists that the real story concerned a lonely freelancer writing for BMJ and not a powerful pharmaceutical company with a huge advertising budget. The press dutifully shifted its focus from Lilly’s outrageous efforts to suppress evidence to the narrow question of whether a piece of evidence had really been in the public record in the years since 1997, when Judge Potter changed his verdict to “dismissed with prejudice as settled,” very far from the victory Lilly had been claiming.