GlaxoSmithKline (“Glaxo”), one of the world’s major research based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, recently agreed to pay $750 million to settle civil and criminal charges for selling adulterated products to Medicaid and other government health plans in a qui tam whistleblower lawsuit. The suit was originally filed in 2001 by the government, on behalf of Cherl Eckard, under the False Claims Act for violations of government manufacturing standards at Glaxo’s plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico. At the time, the plant in Cidra was Glaxo’s number one factory in the world, making over 20 products worth over $5.5 billion annually. Cheryl Eckard, the employee whistleblower who brought the violations to the government’s attention, will receive about $96 million of the settlement. Our Employee Whistleblower Attorneys have assisted many clients with whistleblowing and retaliation cases. Call today (800) 893-9645 if you have witnessed any fraud in your workplace.
As an employee whistleblower, Eckard is receiving her share under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act which allows a private citizen with knowledge of fraud against the government to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government and recover a portion of any money that the government recovers. The key to this provision is that you must be the first person to bring the case to the government’s attention and not publicize or advertise it until the government decides to prosecute the claim. In other words, you must not take your story to the local TV station.
In 2002, FDA investigators cited the plant for quality control problems. Thereafter, while working at Glaxo as a global quality assurance manager, Eckard was in charge of remedying manufacturing violations cited by the FDA. However, she discovered that manufacturing and quality testing violations far exceeded those cited by the FDA. For example, she found that Glaxo marketed Bactroban ointment, a topical antibiotic used to treat skin infections in babies, that was contaminated; Kytril injection, an anti-nausea drug used by cancer patients, that was not sterile; Paxil CR tablets that were missing an active ingredient; Avandamet tablets that were the wrong potency.
Eckard complained to the company and even advised them to close down the plant. She submitted a detailed report to Glaxo’s compliance department, who felt her report was unsubstantiated. Shortly thereafter, Glaxo subsequently fired her without correcting the problems.
According to Taxpayers Against Fraud, Eckard’s share of $96 million is the highest amount ever paid to a single whistleblower under the False Claims Act. This case represents a major victory to employees with the integrity and courage to expose fraud and wrongdoing against not just the government but against consumers who use their products. Not only did Eckard’s actions save lives and expose fraud, but she was financially rewarded for speaking the truth. The qui tam provision of the whistleblower statute not applies to fraud in pharmaceutical companies, but also applies to fraud against the government in other industries, including tax, securities, commodities and health care.
If you observe your company committing fraud against the government and your complaints have gone unheard, our experienced Employee Whistleblower Lawyers at Villanueva & Sanchala are ready to listen and help you take the next step. Call now at (800) 893-9645 to speak with one of our attorneys.
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