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Grassely Promoting “The Value of Whistleblowers” by writing to Drug Companies


altSenator Chuck Grassely, a Republican of Iowa, has recently asked 16 drug companies how they treat whistleblowers within the companies who have filed complaints under the False Claims Act.  The companies include Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc, and Eli Lilly & Co.  Senator Grassely prides himself on being one of the leading Senator’s on oversight and whistleblowing.  His whistleblowing laws have become the federal government’s #1 anti-fraud tool, recovering $22 billion to taxpayers that would have been lost to fraud.  The Senator’s letters to the companies come following the 2009 law which extends anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers

The Senator is inquiring about how whisteblowers are treated, how employees are notified of the law, and what changes have been made since the 2009 law.

The Senator explains that he wants to write the letters in order to “foster a mindset that recognizes the value of whistleblowers.”  His explains, “My appeal to drugmakers is based on the fact that they have a public responsibility to safeguard the tax dollars that pay for their products, and promoting a culture where those who speak up about possible fraud are rewarded rather than retaliated against is one way to fulfill that responsibility…There can never be too many taxpayer watchdogs, so I see this letter as an opportunity to foster a mindset that recognizes the value of whistleblowers and the duty these companies have to act honestly when seeking taxpayer dollars.”

The Senator asked Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Kindler of Pfizer, “What measures does Pfizer have in place to ensure fair treatment to those filing complaints?…Of employees who have filed complaints, have any complained of unfair treatment and/or retaliation after the filing of the complaint?” Pfizer representatives state that the company will respond to the letter and that it “shares the senator’s desire to detect and report any false claims that may lead to unnecessary costs to our health-care system” according to Pfizer spokesperson Chris Loder.  While Pfizer has paid over $2.3 billion due to whistleblowing cases involving improper marketing of drugs, the company claims to protect whistleblowers within.  Loder states that Pfizer has “substantial resources” to “create a compliance program that consists of mandatory training for every one of our employees, proactive monitoring and surveillance, and strict enforcement of all federal and state health-care laws.”

Representatives of both AstraZeneca and Lilly have stated that they also intend to respond to the Senator’s letters.

The Senator and organizations such as Taxpayers Against Fraud are looking to promote honest reporting of fraud and the value of whistleblowing when applicable.  According to Taxpayers Against Fraud, many companies attempt to send a message to those in the company that if they whistleblow the consequences include losing your job, your house, and your marriage.  Such organizations aim to erase the negative stigma attached to whistleblowing and promote the value of whistleblowing.

The Senator anticipates written responses to his letters by July 20.

Sources: Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa webpage. “Chuck Grassley of Iowa—United States Senator.”
Voreacos, David. “Grassley Asks Pfizer, Drugmakers How They Treat Whistleblowers.” Bloomberg Businessweek. 1 July 2010.



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