Study Shows Whistle-Blowers from Drug Companies Suffer Hardship
A study conducted at Harvard University showed that people who become U.S. government informants in health fraud cases against drug companies, whistle blowers, may receive financial rewards but they suffer sever hardship.
In fact, 82% of the 22 whistle blowers polled said they were subjected to various pressures by the company in response to their complaints and at least eight insiders said the financial consequences were “devastating”. One said: “I just wasn't able to get a job. I had to sell the house and financially I went under. Then it really gets difficult…I lost everything, absolutely everything”.
“The whistle-blowers need more support in the process of bringing the case forward," Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said in a telephone interview.
The study offers insight into what happens when whistle-blowers sue their companies under the "qui tam" litigation process, in which an individual goes to court and the federal government intervenes if it finds evidence of illegal activity. The study went on to say that six insiders reported divorces, severe marital strain, or other family conflicts during this time. Half the interviewees reported having stress-related health problems, including shingles, psoriasis, autoimmune disorders, panic attacks, asthma, insomnia, migraines and generalized anxiety.
Kesselheim and his colleagues looked at 17 cases of pharmaceutical whistle-blowing since 2001. The largest was last year's $1.4 billion settlement in which Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY.N) was accused of improperly marketing its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa to children and elderly patients, and failing to provide information about the drug's side effects.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this study was that most whistle-blowers get money and researchers discovered that money was not the motivation. Whistle-blowers receive a share of financial recoveries resulting from prosecutions and settlements. "They seemed to want to right a wrong, or bring to light something that was ethically compromised," Kesselheim said. Money was not the motivation.
The whistle-blowers usually discovered the illegal practice when they moved to a new company or when they were promoted to a new position. Most tried to stop the practice by talking to superiors or filing a complaint. They were often told to just follow orders.
The study, described in a special report published in the May 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, provides what may be the first solid data on the experiences of those who participate in litigation under the federal False Claims Act.