Whether within the company or outside the organization, the pharmaceutical whistleblower is a powerful legal resource.
Whistleblowing is a term that describes people who become aware of activities within an organization or entity that are legally questionable. They don’t pretend they know nothing. Instead, the whistleblower chooses to reveal the activity. As in any industry, the actions of a pharmaceutical whistleblower have the potential to trigger changes for the better. Here are some basics that you should understand about whistleblowing and the possible outcomes.
Two Kinds of Whistleblowers
There are generally two distinct types of whistleblowing. Understanding how the two are similar and how they are different is important. It’s easier to see how the role of a whistleblower within the pharmaceutical industry aids in stopping the abuse.
- Internal whistleblower: The whistleblower has a connection to the organization. This could be an employee, an officer, or a shareholder. The internal whistleblower shares the information with one or more people within the organization. Those people would be figures with authority to take action.
- External whistleblower: External whistleblowers reveal the activity to someone outside the company. That entity may be a law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction. It could also be a governmental agency that has oversight of the organization in some manner. Furthermore, the whistleblower may choose to take the information straight to the media.
How does the whistleblower determine which approach to use? Is there a reason to believe someone within the company will handle the matter? Then the whistleblower won’t see any need to contact outside parties. There’s trust that everything they are in compliance with current laws. However, when there is little confidence that internal personnel will handle the situation, contacting an outside entity makes sense.
A Pharmaceutical Whistleblower Example
Whistleblowing is nothing new. In fact, we see more and more cases of whistleblowing each year. Within the pharmaceutical industry, whistleblowing often has to do with the development and release of new products.
Consider this example. An employee is working on a new product due for release in six months. He or she becomes aware that the company knows the product triggers a set of side effects. The company withheld that information from governmental agencies as well as from the public or the medical community. Given the circumstances, the whistleblower reports the side effects to a legal entity. He or she may even want to take the information to the public through the media.
Taking this type of action does involve risk on the part of the whistleblower. Attempts to discredit the individual are likely to take place. Furthermore, loss of employment or other issues may also arise. Hence, most people who chose to become a pharmaceutical whistleblower only do so after considering their options carefully.
Whistleblowers and the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act provides some amount of protection for whistleblowers. Employing the concept of qui tam, the whistleblower or relator has the right to some amount of compensation. This is in exchange for cooperating with an investigation into the claims. Finally, if the claims prove to be valid and the lawyers decide to take legal action, the level of compensation can be significant.
Whistleblowers and the Need for Legal Counsel
Seeking legal counsel before choosing to pass on information to anyone, either within or outside the company, is a smart move. An attorney can listen to what the client has to say and ask questions related to the evidence. Furthermore, the attorney helps the client understand what sort of outcomes are likely depending upon the actions they take. That includes what could happen if the client chooses to bypass internal personnel and go straight to the media or a government entity.
The attorney will also seek to protect the employee’s rights to the full extent of current laws. That includes preventing the client from losing his or her job. The attorney manages any communications between the alleged perpetrator. Also, they provide advice related to the client’s personal conduct while the investigation progresses. If the matter does result in a lawsuit, the attorney will usually continue to represent the client.
Whistleblowers sometimes feel that legal counsel isn’t necessary. However, help from an attorney is a good idea. Having legal guidance reduces the risk of retaliation. Also, it ensures proper procedures are followed. That’s important when it comes to approaching a government entity or making a case in court.
Do you have information about illegal activity within a pharmaceutical organization? There’s no reason to navigate your situation alone. You can have the help of an experienced legal team. Click to find out more about the rights and legal protections offered to a pharmaceutical whistleblower by contacting the Bothwell Law Group online.