Individual responsibility in illegal pharma marketing

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: The Justice Department, in a recent settlement, may be signaling that it intends to go after individuals, working within pharma as well as the company itself.  

In the recent whistleblower lawsuit against Genentech the Justice Department, in the settlement agreement, stated that Genentech was “protected” but that employees, and former employees are still liable for the illegal activities.  Everyone should take notice of this because it’s a precedent that could indicate holding those people directly responsible for illegal activities.

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Of course, there is both good and bad here.  We first need to ask “who benefitted” from the illegal activities.  In the case of Genentech it was Genentech themselves who took in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales and paid only a small fine.  Some employees could have benefited via bonuses for sales targets or promotions, but it also indicates that the system of checks and balances may be out of control and as thus the corporation is washing its hands of all responsibility.

I believe that if illegal activity can be directly linked to an employee or employees that they should be prohibited from working in the industry again. I have seen, for example, a former Lilly executive who worked on Zyprexa when it was caught in illegal marketing went to work for J&J who then was also caught in illegal marketing and had to pay a huge fine.  Unfortunately, she is still working in healthcare.

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The implications of the settlement language are huge for pharma employees.  Individuals who know how to “game the system” can now be held accountable and could wind up paying a huge fine or in jail.  Time to rethink what you are doing.