Eli Lilly – A Drug Company Without Horns and a Tail

April 11, 2013 Natasha Tracy

Two nights ago, I was privileged to attend the National Council’s Awards of Excellence dinner. This is a dinner during which we honor and hear the stories of those who won the awards. I was there because the Bipolar Babe won a Reintegration Award in mentorship, and believe me, no one deserves it more. Being a winner, the Bipolar Babe gets $10,000 for her charity.

But what you might notice about these awards is that they are a partnership between the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (mental and addiction illnesses) and Eli Lilly and Company. Now, The National Council,

. . . advocates for policies that ensure that people who are ill can access comprehensive healthcare services. We also offer state-of-the-science education and practice improvement resources so that services are efficient and effective.

Whereas Eli Lilly is a drug company designed to make money.

But what I learned while I was at the awards is that the Eli Lilly folks had neither horns nor tails.

Who is Eli Lilly and Company?

According to Wikipedia, Eli Lilly,

. . . was the first company to mass-produce penicillin, the Salk polio vaccine, and insulin, including one of the first pharmaceutical companies to produce human insulin using recombinant DNA. Lilly is also the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of psychiatric medications.

You might know Eli Lilly as they are the makers of Cialis (erectile dysfunction medication), Cymbalta (antidepressant), Methadone (used to treat opiate addiction), Prozac (antidepressant), Symbax (used to treat bipolar) and many others.

Of course, all is not rosy at a drug company. Eli Lilly also pled guilty to illegally marketing the antipsychotic drug, Zyprexa, and was fined almost one-and-a-half billion dollars. (And, as I have said in a previous post, such fines are ridiculously low.)

What I Learned About Eli Lilly

Sitting two seats over from me at the dinner was an Eli Lilly psychiatrist. His whole job consisted of going over their researcher’s work and ensuring accurate science. This doctor used to treat patients, then he trained other doctors, and now he vets research. He (and I) considers this to be an important contribution to people with a mental illness. Without accurate scientific data, we can’t make informed decisions.

And Eli Lilly was thanked by most award-winners, probably because they realize that Eli Lilly had to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to make those awards happen. (Eli Lilly also gives a significant amount of money to people with serious mental illnesses through scholarships.)

And as much I have spoken in harsh words about drug companies in the past, I have to give these guys credit. They could do anything with the millions of dollars (estimate on my part) they give to people with a mental illness, but they don’t. Instead they donate it to people just like me (and just like many of you.)

Drugs Companies and the Devil

So, I guess what I’m saying is that drug companies aren’t the devils that some people make them out to be. They certainly deserve anger and ire at times for things that they do and decisions they make, but let’s not paint everything they do with the same brush. Without this company pouring billions of dollars into research, we wouldn’t have fluoxetine (Prozac) which, literally, has helped millions of people worldwide with Food and Drug Administration-approved uses like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, panic disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

I’m not saying these are the guys in the white hats – after all, their main concern is making money – all I’m saying is that some of the things they do benefit us, benefit me and benefit others, every day. And right now, I have to thank them for giving $10,000 to a small charity that can make very good use of that money.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, April 11). Eli Lilly – A Drug Company Without Horns and a Tail, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

July, 29 2013 at 4:07 pm

No Lilly isn't perfect but who amongst us is? Without profit what is the incentive? Too bad we don't live in a perfect world. I for one am grateful and owe my life to Prozac. Sorry for those it did not work for. Wish it still worked for me. Without the early research that led to Prozac and (gasp) profit where would we be today?

Cathryn Coone-McCrary
May, 11 2013 at 4:51 am

I don't think it is necessary to comment on the writing of this article, which, as always, is excellent. Nor is it called for to ask if Natasha got a kickback. It is petty to take these kinds of potshots at someone who is providing a public service. If one disagrees, just state the facts--which some commenters did in a fair way. And, no, I don't work for a drug company. And, no, I don't know the author personally.
Thanks as always for your blogs, Natasha. I look forward to them.

Randye Kaye
April, 15 2013 at 5:37 am

Natasha, I love this post. Yes, drug companies are motivated by profit – but if that “motivation” leads to more research, increased treatment options, and (in our case) a chance at getting a productive life back for my son with schizophrenia – then I am all for that motivation.
I have had the opportunity to get to know folks at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Jazz Pharma and more – and from the CEOS to the managers to the sales reps, I’ve met nothing but amazing people who really want to make a difference in the lives of those who can be helped by treatment. When they hear our story, there are tears, smiles, awareness of challenges and cheers for the small victories..and the reactions are clearly motivated by human connection rather than any sort of greed.
It’s partnership/villages to get to recovery – different for each person living with mental illness, but for many (like us) having access to treatment options has made all the difference, and given us hope.

Kelly Hand
April, 13 2013 at 4:56 pm

I think this corporate model of philanthropy is pretty standard. Companies make money and they get to choose whether they want to "give back" some of their profits. I went to grad school at Indiana University in the 90s. Lilly was one of IU's most conspicuous benefactors. What I learned at a certain point is that they were also handing out Prozac quite liberally to students at the health center--and that a good percentage of the students in my cohort were on it. Grad school was stressing them out, and Prozac was the prescribed solution. It sounds like a good way to hook whole generations of young people. One of my peers committed suicide and she was one of those Prozac takers. That's not to say Prozac was the cause, as it was far more complex than that, but this just proves that for pharmaceutical companies the stakes are much higher than they are for other corporations. It's a whole lot easier to be a Ben and Jerry's that gives lots of money away; we know that we can't really blame them for making us gain weight because we know we should resist temptation, but it just doesn't work that way for the medications that doctors recommend to patients. The doctor/pharmaceutical company relationship is a problematic one.

April, 12 2013 at 11:00 pm

So were you given back something too?
But 10 000 to random blogger who promotes the take-yo-meds model... is it really SUCH a big deal? Out of their bilions?
For a perspective. Hezbollah or Hamas run schools, provide healthcare and welfare for citizens. They probably "give back" more (and take proportionally much much more) then Eli Lilly... but they are still terrorist organizations, charity aside.
Charity should be genuine. I don't trust Eli Lilly's public stints.

April, 12 2013 at 10:31 pm

The reason that this article is not as good as your other articles is that it lacks the passion and conviction of your other writing.

Mental Illness Policy Org
April, 11 2013 at 12:35 pm

gulp. Lilly and others make important treatments, but to attribute that to anything more than a desire to make money is inconsistent with the facts. All the pharmcos play down side-effects in pursuit of profits. And the scholarship program is an example of marketing, not altruism. (From my files:)
When Eli Lilly the makers of the atypical antipsychotic Olanzapine came out with a 'scholarship program' (educational grant scholarships conditional on taking the drug), the NAMI membership was instantly revolted by what was in essence a bribe to take it (why not lower the price, rather than inflate it to pay for the bribe?). In addition, what would happen if you went off the med? Lose the scholarship? Dr. E. Fuller Torrey brought the concerns to the media's attention in the New York Times, in the same article, NAMI issued supporting communications. Eli Lilly was a NAMI contributer.…
As a result of our pressure, Eli Lilly dropped the requirement to take their med to get the scholarship. Dr. Thomas Malamud, who is funded by Lilly, and was often the 'face' of the scholarship program noted that even after our efforts 50% of the scholarships go to those on Olanzapine and Eli Lilly products. I do not believe they have 50% of the schizophrenia 'market', so that would show they still favor subsidizing only those who give them business by taking their meds.
I know it was a heady environment, I know you deserve all the accolades (I am one of your biggest fans), but understand PharmCo is a business that puts profits above people. I have in the past written on this. Keep up the great work.

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