Journal Retracts Report on Prozac Papers

The British Medical Journal has retracted a report that said Eli Lilly and Co. documents suggesting a link between Prozac (search) and a heightened risk of suicide attempts (search) and violence had gone missing for years.

The journal issued an apology and correction that appeared Thursday on the journal's Web site.

"The BMJ accepts that Eli Lilly acted properly in relation to the disclosure of these documents in these claims," the journal said. "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."

The BMJ last month said it had given U.S. regulators internal company documents it had received from an anonymous source indicating that the drug maker was aware in the 1980s that the anti-depressant could have potentially troubling side-effects.

Indianapolis-based Lilly said Jan. 4 that the records were the same that had been given to the Food and Drug Administration and other investigators more than a decade ago and had not gone missing during a 1994 lawsuit as the journal reported.

After further investigation, the journal said it had determined that Lilly had in fact disclosed the documents during the lawsuit.

"The BMJ did not intend to suggest that Eli Lilly caused these documents to go missing," the retraction said.

In a statement, Sidney Taurel, Lilly's chairman and chief executive, said the retraction was an "important step in gaining closure on this unfortunate event."

"It is Lilly's policy to be honest in our dealings with the public, the media, regulatory bodies and our customers," he said.

The journal said the documents had formed part of a 1994 lawsuit against Eli Lilly on behalf of victims of a workplace shooting in Louisville, Ky. Joseph Wesbecker, the gunman who killed eight people and himself in 1989, had been prescribed Prozac a month before the shootings.

Eli Lilly won the case, but later disclosed it had settled with the plaintiffs during the trial.

The editor of the BMJ said the apology was limited to the issue of whether the documents were missing from the court case.

"Whether or not Eli Lilly made all of the information available to the FDA at the appropriate times is a question for the FDA to answer. That is why we sent the documents to the FDA and we await their response," said acting editor Kamran Abbasi.

Morry Smulevitz, a spokesman for Lilly, said the company also awaited the FDA's finding.

"We do consider the retraction and the apology as an important first step in gaining closure on this unfortunate event," Smulevitz said.