Pharma Whistleblowers Under Stress

New findings from a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)  study entitled “Whistle-blowers’ experiences in fraud litigation against pharmaceutical companies” confirm what most whistleblowers already know: whistleblowers who report health care fraud experience substantial stress and receive little support. This appears to be in line with other recently released studies which confirm that, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, the majority of whistleblowers “just don’t get no respect.”

The NEJM study examined the experiences of 42 pharmaceutical whistleblowers, and an interesting profile of the whistleblowers emerged.  All but six of the relators in the study did not specifically intend to use the qui tam mechanism when they decided to seek legal redress for the frauds they observed. Rather than being motivated by collecting a monetary reward, the main motivations of the whistleblowers were integrity, altruism  or public safety, justice, and self-preservation.

The whistleblowers shared certain common experiences in bringing frauds to light. Most of the whistleblowers became active participants in the investigation, such as by wearing a wire.  The whistleblowers also reported spending inordinate amounts of time working on the investigation, sometimes meeting with FBI agents in risky locations or being forced to devise hasty covers for agents visiting the whistleblower’s workplace on short notice. Many relators were frustrated with the government at various points during the investigation.

Another common theme among the relators was the personal toll of becoming a whistleblower. Most of the whistleblowers reported experiencing financial difficulties. Some experienced divorce or other family problems. In addition, whistleblowing took a physical toll, with several whistleblowers reporting health problems ranging from asthma to migraines.

When it was all over, most of the relators felt that what they did was important for ethical or psychological reasons, despite dissatisfaction with the financial reward. Notably, the advice offered to potential whistleblowers by some of these seasoned, war-weary whistleblowers? Hire an experienced attorney!

This article was sponsored by The Qui Tam Team, the epicenter for whistleblowers and people interested in the False Claims Act, Qui Tam Provisions, and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To discuss a potential case, please call Eric Young at 1 (800) 590-4116.