Why aren’t there more whistleblowers in pharma?

businessman hiding face behind sign whistle blowerKEY TAKEAWY: The deck is stacked against anyone that wants to be a pharma whistleblower.  Pharma companies have years of experience in litigation and can often crush former employees who decide to go public with illegal practices.

It takes courage and fortitude to become a pharma whistleblower.  It can be a lengthy process that affects family, work and quality of life.  There are some pharma companies that encourage employees to speak up when they witness wrongdoing, but they are in the minority.


There are many questions that have to be asked when someone is going to sue pharma as a whistleblower such as..

  1. Did the whistleblower exhaust all internal resources to point out the wrongdoing?
  2. Will the government join in the lawsuit?
  3. Does the whistleblower have concrete evidence that the wrongdoing was intentional and that the company benefitted from the illegal activity?
  4. Can you find a lawyer who will follow through and take this case to fruition?

Then there are the personal obstacles.  Once you become a whistleblower your career working in pharma is over and you may have a hard time finding a new job in any industry once your potential employer learns you are in litigation against a previous employer.  It can take years for cases to move forward and the toll of entering our legal system can take its toll on family and friends.

A recent whistleblower lawsuit was just resolved according to the DOJ. The settlement resolves allegations filed in a lawsuit by former Genentech employee Brian Shields, in federal court in San Francisco.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  Shields will receive approximately $10 million.


Keep in mind that the case above, although a win against wrongdoing, may be an exception.  We don’t know how many people have started whistleblower lawsuits only to be crushed by the army of pharma attorneys.  It’s not a path to a hefty payday, it’s a struggle of conscious against wrongdoing that needs to be corrected.  The government, along with the FDA need to make it easier for former employees to point out clear illegal activities.