Novartis Pharmaceutical Group Ordered to Pay Almost $1.5 Million For Retaliating Against a Former Company Executive

According to Law360, Novartis Pharmaceutical Group was ordered to pay almost $1.5 million for “net compensatory damages.” The company did not have to pay punitive damages because a jury of eight found that the drug company’s firing of the executive was not malicious or wanton.

The executive claimed that she was improperly filed because she objected to a “proposed drug study,” The executive, Min Amy Guo, claimed the firing was in retaliation because she raised a red flag regarding “the potential study of cancer drug Afinitor by pharmaceutical distribution company McKesson Corp,”

Ms. Guo filed her retaliation claim through the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. She was awarded more than 1.8 million in damages. That amount was reduced nearly .35 million by Novatis’ claim that Ms. Guo was fired, in part, due to violating company policy.

Novartis made numerous arguments in support of its assertion that punitive damages should not apply, that its acts weren’t malicious, including:

  • Ms. Guo violated company policy
  • Two of the company’s executives had appealed her dismissal
  • Ms. Guo received a positive job performance review and a $90,000 bonus

The attorney for Ms. Guo claimed that punitive damages were necessary to punish the pharmaceutical company and others from improperly retaliating against employees who provide valuable information such as the dangerous drug study.

The disclosure – the objections to the study

The executive who objected to the study was the “executive director of the health economics and outcomes research group at Novartis” before she was dismissed. She claimed that the study “appeared to be a kickback to the company to help sell Afiniftor.” The study was designed to analyze the merits of Afinitor, a breast cancer drug. Novartis ultimately decided not to proceed with the study. According to court records, the distribution company for Afinitor in 2010 “had acquired US Oncology Inc., one of the largest networks of community-based oncologists in the country.”

The lawyer for Ms. Guo said that the “head of North America oncology at Novartis, was pushing to get the study done in time for the launch of Afinitor as a breast cancer drug, but Guo’s whistleblowing in the summer of 2012 slowed down that process and “that study misse[d] the launch,” leading to the alleged retaliation.” Ms. Guo claimed that “the study would violate a corporate integrity agreement that Novartis entered into in 2010 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. That agreement required Novartis to comply with federal health care program requirements, including a federal anti-kickback statute.”

Whistleblowers need to understand all their rights. These rights include more than the right to a percentage of any recovery. Whistleblowers need to understand they can often file an independent claim against an employer who retaliates when they get notice the employee filed a whistleblower claim. To learn what all your rights are and how to hold employers who improperly fire or treat you improperly accountable for retaliation, call Stephen Danz & Associates, today. We have the experience and resources to help you get justice. Call (877) 789-9707 for an appointment. Se habla espanol.