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California Whistleblower Sues Makers of Toxic Drug (Part 2)


Beverly Brown was a pharmaceutical rep for The Celegene Corporation. She is also a whistleblower, bringing suit against the company for bringing a toxic drug, previously taken off the market for causing horrific birth defects when given to pregnant women and for marketing and selling it as a treatment for cancer, without the proper FDA approval or oversight.

The drug, thalidomide was originally sold to pregnant women to help with miscarriage, morning sickness and nervousness. Without proper oversight then, it caused birth defects in children all over the globe, resulting in babies being born without arms or legs, heart defects and other organ damage.

In a scary repeat of history, Celegene began selling the drug for use with cancer patients, effectively using them as guinea pigs, without having undergone the proper testing. Sounds terrible, right? Like the kind of thing news media outlets would be screaming over and courts would be hammering the company for?

Not at all…

Beverly filed her suit in 2007. 2007! It was recently unsealed by the US District Court for the Central District of California. The Court only recently (in July, 2014) denied the company’s Motion to Dismiss the case, giving Brown the green light to move forward.

And the government has chosen to sit back and not take part in the suit at this point.

“The essential allegation is that the drugs were marketed off-label, and safety risks and kickbacks were not disclosed,” explained Brown’s counsel. “This falls under the federal and state False Claims Acts, which are statutes that allow an individual whistleblower – who has independent or nonpublic knowledge of a wrongful act – to bring suit in the name of the government.”

The government, of course has the option to opt in and take over the litigation, but in this case, it has chosen not to. For whatever reason, the history behind thalidomide doesn’t raise red flags with the Justice Department. It makes you wonder why the US government has never taken action against the original manufacturers of the thalidomide drugs given to women in the 50’s and 60’s, nor today.

Beverly Brown, however was in the middle of the thalidomide marketing. She worked for Celgene from 2001 to 2011, and originally filed her qui tam suit under seal, while still working for the company. She resigned on her own, not under pressure from the company.

In the next article we will discuss the lawsuit in more detail.