Everyone knows that drug reps meet with doctors and offer them gifts to increase the number of prescriptions for their medications. But what happens when the doctors don’t want to meet with the reps? The pharmaceuticals might start bribing the doctors’ office staff.
This was one of the revelations in a recent suit filed against Mallinckrodt. Its H.P. Acthar Gel was designed to treat infants’ seizures but was sold for other issues like MS and rheumatoid arthritis as its price skyrocketed from $40 a vial in 2000 to nearly $39,000 today. The suit ties the outrageous price increases to bribes the company offered doctors in the form of lucrative speaking engagements and other kickbacks. But, in a twist, it also puts office workers squarely on the front lines.
First, do no harm
Whistleblowers have long played a major role in calling out economic injustices, especially with the nation’s widespread healthcare fraud. While millions of Americans struggle to afford medical insurance and often go without treatment to save a few dollars, pharmaceutical companies have been steadily—and sometimes rapidly—raising the costs of their medications. Whistleblowers fight to make sure the system works for these people, rather than against them.
You don’t have to be a doctor or a sales rep
Drug manufacturers naturally go after the people who can prescribe their medications, but the lawsuit against Mallinckrodt says the company took an extra step. When doctors tried to avoid meeting with the company’s representatives, it bribed office workers to set up meetings. This just goes to show that you don’t always have to be a doctor or sales rep to take a stand and help taxpayers save billions of dollars.
Patience is a virtue
Summoning the courage to report is a tremendous first step, but it’s not the end. Not even close. In most cases, whistleblowers need to be patient. The case against Mallinckrodt started when whistleblowers reported potential fraud by Questor Pharmaceuticals, which Mallinckrodt later bought. Their reports stayed under seal for seven years before the government decided to step in.
You are protected
Most whistleblowers act because they want to do what’s right, not because of the hefty potential rewards. That could mean serving a long time at job where you’ve already called out bad behavior, so it helps to know that the False Claims Act gives you protection from retaliation. You have this protection even if you’re not a full-time employee, but a contractor whose reputation may be on the line.
Wherever there’s fraud, America needs whistleblowers
Whistleblowers play an invaluable role in keeping business honest. Whenever drug manufacturers and other companies take their shady deals to new audiences, we need new whistleblowers to step forward, hold them accountable and protect the rest of us from their rampant fraud.