Is there a pill more bitter than the proposed sellout of Bothell-based biotech Icos to Eli Lilly? Drug-mammoth Lilly wants Icos' properties, not its people, proposing to throw out most of 700 workers if investors vote to accept a $34-a-share bid next month. Among those eagerly pushing for the deal - and not much worried about what he'll do for another job - is Icos Chair Paul Clark. He'll get at least a $23 million golden parachute if the sale is approved, according to the Seattle Times. His corporate board has already given out last-minute "retention" bonuses of $13.6 million to senior executives, including $4.3 million for Clark - now that their employees have, after 16 years, achieved their first profit.
Meanwhile, the board and top officials had been misleading their shareholders, critics say, about the value of the properties they would be handing over to Lilly. "The company chose not to disclose that a new psoriasis drug had entered clinical testing," reports the Times, "and that it submitted an application to test a new cancer drug with the FDA." It was only last week, a day before a court hearing in a shareholders' lawsuit, that Icos issued a press release admitting its franchise drug, Cialis (for impotence), was selling better than believed, and its 2006 profits would triple earlier estimates.If all that's not enough to make investors think twice about what they're selling, consider who they might be selling to - a company that lobbied primary care physicians to prescribe a powerful schizophrenia and bipolar disorder drug for use by patients who did not have either condition. The New York Timesreported this week that Lilly told its sales representatives to suggest that doctors prescribe Zyprexa for off-label use by older patients with symptoms of dementia. "Zyprexa," the Times reports, "is not approved to treat dementia or dementia-related psychosis, and in fact carries a prominent warning from the F.D.A. that it increases the risk of death in older patients with dementia-related psychosis." The deadly and greedy campaign is outlined in Lilly corporate documents, congering up an apt campaign slogan for Icos shareholders to consider come the January vote: Their deaths, our profit.