MD$ on the Take: My Career-Ending Expose
September 27, 2010
Whistles blowers aren't always celebrated.
Sometimes they're crushed.
"There is a pathologically intimate relationship between corporations and the U.S. government- their collusion is expressed in the revolving door. "
by Dan Abshear
In the Spring of 2006, I became a pharmaceutical corporate whistle blower.
In February of that year, I had recruited a law firm with
experience in pharmaceutical whistle blower lawsuits in Boston, which is a
top place to file and submit pharmaceutical whistle blower cases. They
agreed to represent me after I submitted a ten page document to them I
composed- explaining why the wrongdoing of my employer, Novartis
Pharmaceuticals, needed to be addressed. They represented me on
complete contingency, which meant that they would not be paid if they
did not succeed in the whistle blower lawsuit they were submitting for
The law firm submitted the whistle blower lawsuit against Novartis
in April of 2006. And it was filed under seal, which means that I and
my legal council cannot discuss the case whatsoever. It's a trick
played by the D.O.J., to eliminate the possibility of media contact.
I made a trip to Boston in July of 2006 to be asked hundreds of
questions by various relevant government entities, such as the
department of health and human services. Also, in the center of a large
table in a conference room, was a phone, with numerous attorney
generals from various states- all there to hear my answers to the
hundreds of questions I was asked one day, for 8 hours. I spoke with
complete knowledge of the evidence, and with total honesty.
Novartis hired me at the end of 2001 as one of their many sales
representatives. At that time, I had already worked for two of the top
pharmaceutical corporations in the world, which were Merck and Pharmacia
Corporation. The game is the same no matter which pharmaceutical
corporation one may work for as a sales representative.
That game, as a pharmaceutical representative, is bribing doctors:
hiring doctors to be on the payroll of the pharmaceutical corporation.
In the years I worked for Novartis, I received above average raises
yearly. I received numerous awards from Novartis. I was very well liked and respected. Novartis gave me a company car, I normally only worked half-days. I was viewed as an expert as a pharmaceutical
sales representative. I was often asked to train other new sales representatives. This was vocational bliss.
So, why would I even consider reporting wrongdoing by them, if they treated me so well? Was I insane?
In the year 2003, I discovered CafePharma. CafePharma is basically
an online venting board for pharmaceutical representatives. Such
representatives who post on this board often do so with overt anger and
disgust. My uneasiness about bribing doctors was validated by what representatives from many pharmaceutical companies wrote on
this board. The money we paid targeted
doctors are kickbacks. By paying such doctors, we as sales
representatives are violating the federal anti-kickback statute.
As sales reps with large pharmaceutical corporations,
the more doctors you acquire n your territory, the
more you assure your career with your employer. You are told as nauseum by your employer to seek and pay targeted doctors.
With Novartis, they took things a step further: They sent
instructions to their sales force to remind doctors paid by
representatives that they are obligated to prescribe Novartis pharmaceuticals
whenever possible. This, of course, potentially clouds the clinical judgments of such doctors, and as a result, adversely affects the
restoration of health obligated by the health care provider.
The year now was 2004, and I had had enough. I had enough of Novartis
threatening the members of their sales force. Each representative was
given a promotional budget. Often, this
budget was several thousand dollars per month. The unspoken rule was, each representative
has to spend all their budget, or else. It was this year I started to
read books written by those experts critical of the pharmaceutical
industry. I began to become very uncomfortable about the industry I represented.
Also, in 2004, I started to collect evidence in the form of internal documents- accessible only to
Novartis employees, and not intended to be viewed by others. Documents
illustrating the coercion by Novartis to its sales force to spend their
promotional budgets. Documents in the form of emails by upper
management- indicating the need to enforce quid pro quo- to acquire and
keep targeted doctors on the payroll of Novartis. Documents instructing
the sales force to sell a promoted drug for a use not indicated by the
food and drug administration.
At this time, I suffered from pharmaceutical representative schizophrenia. One personality of me I expressed was the perfect sales
representative, who always spent the promotional budget, and became
elated at hearing that various disease states for which the promoted
products would treat were expected to increase. The one who acquired
and hired doctors targeted by Novartis. The one who believed in bribing
and threatening doctors on the payroll of Novartis.
The other personality I represented quietly was the one who had a
need to report this wrongdoing by my employer. My real personality.
The year 2005 approached, and I continued to collect evidence in
the form of Novartis internal documents. By the end of 2005, My whistle blower personality was dominating my existence. I became
vocal about my unease with what we were being told to do by Novartis as
sales representatives. I deliberately dug my own employment grave with
In the Spring of 2006, I was ostracized by Novartis, due to what I
expressed about the illegal nature of my job. Days after the
whistle blower lawsuit was filed in Boston, I was terminated. . I expected to be terminated, at that point.
In 2007 and 2008, I discovered that no corporation would hire me.
No large corporation. It is as if potential employers were aware that I
blew the whistle against Novartis. There is a system within the
Department of Justice called the PACER system, I believe. It records
all who file such lawsuits as I filed via my legal counsel. And it's
accessible to anyone. In these years, I acquired employment by two very
small pharmaceutical companies, but the pay was next to nothing. I was
laid off in the Spring of 2008 by one of them, and that was the official
end of my career as a pharmaceutical sales representative.
GOVERNMENT FAILS TO INTERVENE
In the Spring of 2009, my whistle blower lawsuit was unsealed by the
D.O.J., and, even though the evidence I presented was overwhelming, the
government did not intervene in the case that I filed. I suspect that
Novartis bribed the D.O.J. not to intervene. There is a pathologically
intimate relationship between corporations and the U.S. government-
their collusion is expressed in the revolving door.
Of all large pharmaceutical corporations, and the settlements they
have paid for wrongdoing identical to what I discovered and presented to
the D.O.J. with Novartis, Novartis has paid the least amount over the
A study of 233 whistleblowers was conducted years ago, to explore
the effect on one who blows the whistle on a corporation. Their
The average whistle blower is a man in his 40s with a strong
conscience and high moral values. I was near the age of 40 when I
became a whistle blower.
After blowing the whistle, 90 percent of whistle blowers were fired
or demoted. 27 percent faced lawsuits themselves. 26 percent had to
seek psychiatric or physical care. 25 percent suffered substance
abuse. 17 percent lost their homes. 15 percent experienced divorce.
10 percent attempted suicide. 8 percent were bankrupt. But in spite of
all of this, only 16 percent said they would not blow the whistle