By David Voreacos
July 1, 2010
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley asked 16 drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc and Eli Lilly & Co., to reveal how they treat whistleblowers who file complaints under the False Claims Act.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, sent letters June 28 that posed eight questions such as how companies notify employees of the law, how they treat whistleblowers and what changes they have made in response to a 2009 law extending anti-retaliation protections. Grassley’s office provided copies of the letters.
The False Claims Act lets private citizens sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. Whistleblowers were paid $2.39 billion from 1987 to 2009, or 16 percent of the $15.19 billion collected in False Claims lawsuits in which the U.S. government joined the case, according to the Justice Department.
“What measures does Pfizer have in place to ensure fair treatment to those filing complaints?” Grassley wrote to Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Kindler. “Of employees who have filed complaints, have any complained of unfair treatment and/or retaliation after the filing of the complaint?”
The False Claims Act was passed by Congress in 1863 and strengthened three times since 1986. Citizens file so-called qui tam cases that remain sealed from public view as the Justice Department investigates the claims and decides whether to join the suit. Twenty-five U.S. states have their own versions of the law.
Drugmakers have reached some of the largest settlements in recent years. Pfizer agreed to pay $2.3 billion over improper drug marketing, Lilly paid more than $1.6 billion to settle claims over its marketing of the drug Zyprexa, and AstraZeneca paid $520 million over marketing of its drug Seroquel.