Date: June 22, 2021
The Oregonian along with other media reported on a whistleblower retaliation case filed by TELG client Suzanne Ivie, a former sales manager for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Ms. Ivie was awarded about $2.4 million in damages, following a trial that determined AstraZeneca retaliated against her for reporting possible illegal marketing tactics.
“Suzanne alerted AstraZeneca to bad behavior and, instead of fixing the problem, the company punished her. Today, a jury of regular people told AstraZeneca that’s not acceptable in our society.”
Anita Mazumdar Chambers
Federal jury awards $2.4 million in damages to fired AstraZeneca sales manager who alleged retaliation for whistleblowing
A federal jury in Portland on Tuesday awarded $2.4 million in damages to a woman who said she was fired from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for complaining about alleged misleading marketing tactics.
Suzanne Ivie had worked at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals for 19 years, most recently in Salt Lake City as an executive district sales manager within its respiratory products division.
The jury awarded damages after finding the company violated the Oregon whistleblower protection law, finding Ivie was fired after she made a “good faith report” of alleged company misconduct.
Ivie said she complained in December 2018 that a supervisor appeared to be promoting “off-label marketing” for two prescription medicines to treat pulmonary disease, Bevespi and Daliresp.
She said she faced retaliation in response. She was removed from leadership jobs, wrongly accused of not completing a certain number of hours of coaching her sales representatives, pressured to work weekends and had her bonus reduced, she said.
Attorney Robert Scott Oswald urged the jury to serve as the “conscience of the community … to protect Ivie, to protect AstraZeneca’s current employees, to protect AstraZeneca’s future employees and to protect all of us.”
Ex-AstraZeneca Employee Wins $2.4 Million in Whistleblower Suit
From Bloomberg Law (June 23, 2021)
A former AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, LP employee won $2.4 million in damages after being fired for raising the alarm that an executive was marketing drugs for unapproved uses.
AstraZeneca violated Oregon’s whistleblower statute, which protects employees from facing retaliation for good-faith reporting of wrongdoing, the federal court jury found. It awarded plaintiff Suzanne Ivie $510,423 in back pay and $1,872,000 for emotional distress, suffering, and reputational harm.
Ivie repeatedly tried to warn her bosses that an executive was planning to market anti-inflammatory drugs—meant to prevent severe symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease from worsening—as a preventative that could treat mild to moderate issues, according to her 2019 complaint. Such misrepresentation, also know as off-label marketing, is prohibited by federal law.
In response to her complaints, the company retaliated by denying raises and removing her from leadership, and eventually fired her, Ivie claimed.
This isn’t the first time the company has faced scrutiny for misleading marketing. It settled a lawsuit for $520 million in 2010 for off-label drug marketing of the antipsychotic Seroquel. The agreement also required the company to operate under oversight from the Department of Health and Human Services for five years.
Ex-AstraZeneca Rep Wins $2.4M Verdict On Retaliation Claim
From Law360 (June 23, 2021)
An Oregon federal jury has awarded a former AstraZeneca sales manager $2.4 million in back pay and damages, agreeing that she was fired for reporting what she believed was illegal off-label drug promotion but rejecting her age discrimination claim.
Tuesday’s verdict wrapped up a seven-day trial in a case brought by Suzanne Ivie accusing AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, which employed her for nearly two decades, of punishing her because she complained internally about a manager who she believed was seeking to market several pharmaceutical products for off-label use.
Anita Mazumdar Chambers, a principal of The Employment Law Group and counsel for Ivie, said in a statement that her client “alerted AstraZeneca to bad behavior and, instead of fixing the problem, the company punished her.”
“Today, a jury of regular people told AstraZeneca that’s not acceptable in our society,” Chambers said. “This verdict is a comfort for Suzanne, of course, but she’d prefer never to have a lost a job in which she excelled. AstraZeneca derailed her career and forced her into a courtroom to defend her honor. They owed her better – and we’re grateful to the jury for telling them so.”
Jury awards former AstraZeneca sales manager $2.4M in whistleblower retaliation case
From Fierce Pharma (June 23, 2021)
AstraZeneca and a former sales manager have each scored partial wins in the case of Suzanne Ivie, who alleged the company fired her after she raised concerns of off-label marketing.
While a federal jury in Oregon found that AstraZeneca violated whistleblower statute by firing Ivie after she made a “good faith” report of alleged marketing misconduct, jurors rejected allegations of age discrimination, Oregonlive reports.
After a trial that started in mid-June, jurors reached their conclusion Tuesday and awarded Ivie $2.4 million.
During her career, Ivie worked in AZ’s respiratory division. After a new director took over in 2018, the director allegedly pushed the team to promote certain AstraZeneca drugs for use that weren’t approved by the FDA. When Ivie refused to play ball and complained to the company, a pattern of retaliation emerged, she claimed.