Two interesting developments in the ongoing discovery battles in the Zyprexa MDL, which involves claims by several states and health entities alleging that defendant Eli Lilly made misleading statements about the medication. The states allege that they would not have funded Medicaid patients taking Zyprexa had they known about the risks of the drug…But don’t seem eager to prove it.

First, the magistrate judge denied defendant’s motion for sanctions against Montana, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but ordered the states that have not yet produced their complete Medicaid databases as requested to do so on pain of sanctions.

Second, the court ordered the states to produce non-party medical records requested by Lilly. The defendant, not surprisingly, wanted to be able to compare the records of other antipsychotic medications in the relevant periods. As the court said, “the records are in fact relevant to Lilly’s defenses. For example, as Lilly notes, the use of a statistically significant sample of Medicaid patient records can help to explain information obtained from Medicaid databases, and may provide information on potential confounding variables.”

The states argued that their respective physician-patient privilege laws prohibited discovery of the patient medical records. It is axiomatic that state privilege laws do not govern in federal question cases. Although several of the plaintiff states did not allege violations of federal law in their
complaints, and each has vigorously challenged the basis for federal jurisdiction, Judge
Weinstein has held that jurisdiction lies under federal law.

The court also felt that the states’ doctor-patient privilege argument was not well taken, because the order was for the production of de-identified medical records with patient names redacted. Federal statutes and regulations make clear that de-identified health information is discoverable in litigation in federal court, with or without patient consent, and it appears that the states’
respective privilege laws would not apply to de-identified information either.

The court also denied the states’ request that Lilly subpoena the records, as a step that would needlessly prolong discovery.  Significantly, Lilly does not know the identities of the patients whose medical records it seeks. Moreover, the states are in a better position to ensure that the medical records produced are a randomly selected, statistically significant sample. If Lilly were constrained to subpoena the medical records, it would likely target only certain records, which would inevitably lead to protracted argument over whether the records subpoenaed represent a statistically significant sample, said the court.

MassTortDefense has posted on this litigation before. It continues to be an excellent example of the type of attenuated and indirect injury claim that requires in-depth and detailed discovery to defend. Also an example of plaintiffs who are more willing to assert complex damages theories than to provide the evidence to test those claims.