Colleen Jacoby last spoke to Traci Johnson on Friday, the night
before Johnson is reported to have committed suicide.
"On the phone, she was laughing, she was happy," Jacoby said of
her call from Northeast Philadelphia to her best friend in
At 9 p.m. Saturday, a doctor at Indiana University Hospital
pronounced Johnson dead, a suicide, according to an incident report
from the Indianapolis Police Department.
Johnson, 19, a 2002 graduate of Bensalem High School, had been
found hanging by a scarf from a bathroom shower rod in the Lilly
Laboratory for Clinical Research.
Since early last month, after leaving studies at the Indiana
Bible College in Indianapolis, Johnson had been categorized a
"healthy subject" by Eli Lilly & Co. in a trial of the drug
duloxetine, which a spokesman for the pharmaceutical company said
would be used to treat depression and for urinary incontinence
caused by stress.
Jacoby, 20, who lives in the Oxford Circle neighborhood of
Northeast Philadelphia, said that "80 percent of [Johnson's] life,
she was with me; we were her second family."
Johnson "would never hang herself," Jacoby said. "Never, ever.
She was full of life."
David Shaffer, an Eli Lilly spokesman in Indianapolis, said that
four of more than 8,500 people in previous trials of duloxetine had
But, he said in an interview yesterday, they were "studies of
people who actually had depression."
"And that rate is in line with what you'd expect in a population
of that size who were depressed," and who weren't taking the drug,
Shaffer said Johnson's trial consisted of healthy persons "in
which the patient doesn't know, the doctor doesn't know, whether
they're on the medication or sugar pills." There are about 100
Johnson had been given duloxetine early last month but was taking
sugar pills at the time of death, Shaffer said. He called this "a
"It's higher than the dose we expect to be used in clinical
practice, once the drug is approved and doctors are using it in the
Yesterday, the Institutional Review Board, a body of the Indiana
University School of Medicine, which has been monitoring the
clinical trial, moved to tighten the duloxetine study.
Shaffer said the board ordered Lilly to accept no new subjects
for the trial, ordered an independent psychiatrist to evaluate the
current subjects, and required that they sign a new consent
The Lilly spokesman said that enrollment for this trial was
completed before Johnson's death, that the subjects had undergone
psychiatric evaluation before the trial, and that the new form asks
their consent in light of the apparent suicide.
Shaffer said that "the steps that the [review board] took, we
feel, are appropriate in this case."
Jacoby said she and Johnson had been friends since grammar
school, and longtime members of the Greater Church of Philadelphia,
a nondenominational Pentecostal church in Kensington.
The Rev. Joel Barnaby, the pastor there, said that since
Johnson's death, the young woman's relatives "just walk around numb.
They're just devastated."
He said they "come to me and lean on my shoulder and [ask], 'How
did this happen to our little girl?' "
Barnaby said that Johnson came to him last year, asking for names
of Bible schools.
"I asked why, and she said, 'Because I want to sharpen my skills
and understanding of the Scriptures, so that I could be a vessel of
honor that the Lord might use.' "