Most damning of all, is the reality that a drug which is supposed to help treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bi-polar dysfunction, has the potential to bring about akathisia--a precursor to suicide.
Philip Wayne Ebel of LaGrange, Texas didn't have it easy in life. Chronic tension headaches cost him his job and his livelihood, and he was forced into disability in his thirties. However, in spite of life's letdowns the husband and father of two children pursued, undaunted, a new business opportunity while he battled depression, among other maladies.
This was a man described by family and friends, and those who knew him best as a man not normally given to violence, or suicidal thoughts. And so it came as such a surprise to so many when the events of 2002 rolled out as they did.
After much medical intervention in an effort to effectively deal with his health concerns, Ebel's physician finally prescribed Zyprexa to Ebel in July of that year.
Four months later he would be dead. According to documents filed by his widow in a lawsuit, Zyprexa triggered akathisia and sleep disturbances, known risk factors for suicide. Two days before he died, Ebel was also put on Paxil. If Zyprexa provided the coffin, Paxil served to put the nail into it for Ebel, who put a shotgun to his head on November 11 2002, eight days before his 38th birthday.
Both Zyprexa and Paxil were named in a lawsuit as proximate causes of Ebel's death. However it is widely believed that Zyprexa alone put the late Mr. Ebel into a state of akathisia prior to Paxil being added into the mix.
Zyprexa is marketed by Eli Lilly. Known clinically as olanzapine, it is regarded as a powerful neurological drug. Among various side effects, Zyprexa has been known to trigger suicidal thoughts in some patients—a fact that was borne out when Zyprexa was immersed in clinical trials prior to coming to market in 1996.
In clinical trials for the treatment of schizophrenia, olanzapine was shown to present the onset of akathisia at a rate of five per cent, as compared to one per cent on placebo.
What's more, the rate of completed suicides linked to Zyprexa is higher than any other drug in its class, according to clinical trial data supplied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by Eli Lilly itself. The data revealed that out of 2500 patients taking Zyprexa, there were 12 completed suicides as compared with none with patients on placebo.
What isn't known is the number, from clinical trial data, of suicides not completed. While no one would dispute that an unsuccessful suicide is a merciful preservation of a human life, the context of someone driven to suicide and making the attempt is equally serious.
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However, such success often comes in a vacuum, and in this case it is alleged that Eli Lilly suppressed the most damming side effects relating to suicide. To this end Dr. David Healy, professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Wales, claims in a statement that Eli Lilly "suppressed data on suicidal acts on Zyprexa from these trials. The data are not available in the scientific literature, nor from FOI [Freedom of Information Act] requests to the FDA, nor from enquiries to the company."
One wonders, were it not for Zyprexa, Eric Fernando and Gabriela Nicole would still have a father. The ultimate tragedy of a suicide, are the people left behind by a tragic and needless death.
Especially one triggered by simply taking a pill.