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For Drug Company Whistleblowers, Hardship Often Follows
Date:5/12/2010

More equitable rewards, stronger anti-retaliation provisions needed, study authors say

WEDNESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Ordinary citizens who "blow the whistle" on drug companies for ripping off Medicare and Medicaid are motivated by ethics more so than the financial rewards they reap, yet the personal toll they endure can be substantial and long-lasting, a new study finds.

For 82 percent of these "insiders" -- pharmaceutical manufacturer employees who become whistleblowers -- filing a health fraud complaint led to unwanted pressures from their employer, including being fired, intimidated or blackballed.

"A lot of them express a very strong ethical compass that they think guides them but, boy, they really do suffer a lot for the public good that they perform," said lead author Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate physician in the division of pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The study, described in a special report published in the May 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, provides what may be the first solid data on the experiences of those who participate in litigation under the federal False Claims Act.

"This has been described by anecdote, but I have not seen it quantified in this way before," said Marcia Boumil, associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, whose recent paper in the Journal of Public Health Policy examined whistleblowing in the United States, England, Canada and Australia.

The study also has important implications for the anti-fraud efforts of the U.S. Justice Department, which currently has a backlog of more than 1,000 "qui tam" (whistleblower) cases, according to the report.

In addition to providing sufficient financial incentives to encourage whistleblowers,
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