For the second time in 18 months, Eli Lilly ( LLY) has settled with patients who claimed that the company improperly marketed the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa.

The Indianapolis-based drug giant said Thursday it had reached an agreement with attorneys representing more than 18,000 people. In June 2005, Lilly settled with 8,000 claimants and subsequently entered into arrangements with another 2,500 people.

Lilly said the latest agreement would resolve "the vast majority" of remaining claims in which patients alleged that the company didn't adequately reveal the potential side effects -- most notably weight gain -- of Zyprexa. Approximately 1,200 claims aren't covered by the pact, and Lilly said it would "vigorously defend" Zyprexa in these remaining cases.

"While we remain confident that these claims are without merit, we took this difficult step because we believe it is in the best interest of the company, the patients who depend on this medication, and their physicians," said Sidney Taurel, chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement.

"We wanted to reduce significant uncertainties involved in litigating such complex cases," Taurel added. "Our decision to resolve the claims does not change the fact that Zyprexa has and will continue to improve the lives of millions of patients around the world who are suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."

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