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Eli Lilly's PR firm dropping Church of Scientology

INDIANAPOLIS -- Seeing an obvious conflict of interest, one of the world's largest public-relations firms has decided to drop the Church of Scientology as a client.

The firm also represents Eli Lilly & Co. of Indianapolis, recently a frequent target of the California-based church.

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New York-based WPP Group owns several subsidiaries, including J. Walter Thompson and Hill & Knowlton.

Lilly has been a Thompson client for some time, while Hill & Knowlton picked up the Scientology account in 1988.

'We saw a conflict of interest and started to wind down that contract 60 days ago,' said Frank Mankiewicz, vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton.

At the core of the dispute is Prozac, Lilly's anti-depressant drug.

The Scientologists oppose psychiatric drugs and want Prozac banned, claiming studies have linked the drug to sucidal and violent behavior. Lilly denies any such link.

Lilly's sales of the drug are expected to approach $1 billion this year.

Lilly spokesman Ed West said WPP Chairman Martin Sorrell flew to Indianapolis last summer to discuss the situation as it began developing.

'We weren't comfortable with their representing Scientology,' West said, 'but we did not ask them or advise them to drop the account. It was their decision.'

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