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States Settle With Lilly on E-Mail

July 25, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ Eight states including Massachusetts will divide $160,000 in a settlement with Eli Lilly and Co. over allegations the drug maker unintentionally released the e-mail addresses of more than 600 people taking Prozac.

Indianapolis-based Lilly settled a suit over the matter with the Federal Trade Commission in January, promising better safeguards. It was the first time the FTC had prosecuted an unintentional violation of a Web site’s privacy policies.

On Thursday, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly said the company would pay $160,000 to Massachusetts and seven other states: California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, New York, New Jersey and Vermont.

The people taking Prozac had signed up at a Lilly Web site for an automated e-mail reminding them to take their dose of the company’s anti-depressant. In June 2001, an e-mail announcing the end of the service included the e-mail addresses of all 669 subscribers.

The agreement did not specify how the money would be divided. Sarah Nathan, a spokeswoman for Reilly, said those whose e-mail addresses were released would not get restitution because the states do not know their names and don’t want them brought to light again.

``As we have said from the onset, Lilly sincerely regrets that one of our employees made a mistake, which resulted in the disclosure of individual e-mail addresses to all subscribers of our Medi-Messenger service,″ Lilly said in a statement. ``As a result, we promptly put into place additional measures to prevent it from ever happening again.″

Those measures include appointing a director of global privacy, periodic reporting to the FTC, and new security measures that ``place personal information from our customers in an environment as secure as Lilly’s trade secrets.″

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