Secrecy's Side Effects

Richard Zitrin, a San Francisco-based lawyer who teaches at the University of California, warns that the willingness of lawyers to reach secret out-of-court agreements with drug companies can have dangerous consequences for patients. Referring to Eli Lilly's settlement in 2005 of 18,000 lawsuits over the side-effects of Zyprexa, Zitrin writes that "when secrecy is the price of a legal settlement, wrongdoers hide their mistakes as if they never happened and continue with business as usual." Those involved in the 2005 settlement agreed to secrecy provisions on documents that showed the dangers of Zyprexa and how it was marketed. "When lawyers cut secret deals behind the public's back, what we don't know can and does hurt us. The civil justice system belongs to all of us, and no one should be allowed to use it to keep the public in the dark," Zitrin argues.