Whistleblower Law Blog
60 Minutes Interviews Whistleblower About Reporting Contaminated Drugs at GlaxoSmithKline
60 Minutes interviewed former GlaxoSmithKline employee Cheryl Eckard whose reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) led to a federal investigation of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and to a False Claims Act lawsuit netting Eckard $96 million. In 2002, Eckard led a quality assurance team to evaluate a GlaxoSmithKline subsidiary’s factory located in Cidra, Puerto Rico. She discovered that the water used to make pills was contaminated with bacteria, pills had the incorrect dosages of powerful drugs, and employees were not following proper procedures. Drugs on the same manufacturing line were interchanged: mixing Avandia diabetes pills with Tagamet antacids and Paxil antidepressants. Eckard contacted the vice-president of quality for North America and told him to shut down the factory immediately and notify the FDA, but the factory was not shut down. Eckard continued to work for GlaxoSmithKline, reporting daily quality assurance problems at the Cidra factory to company executives until she was laid off.
Following her termination, she reported GlaxoSmithKline to the FDA; the Cidra factory has since been shut down. She also filed a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline. Under the FCA, a whistleblower may bring a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government to recover funds that were fraudulently obtained, and in return the whistleblower is rewarded with between 15% and 30% of the funds recovered. Knowingly mislabeling drugs or allowing contaminated drugs to enter the United States market constitutes fraud against the government, because those drugs are purchased by government health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. GlaxoSmithKline settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay Eckard $96 million. For more information about the False Claims Act and reporting fraud, click here.