Pay Day for blowing whistle on big pharma

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Pay Day for blowing whistle on big pharma

Post by cymbalta on Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:58 pm

After eight years of battle, a former pharmaceutical sales rep and his lawyer defeated a giant drug company that paid kickbacks to doctors.

And the money ain’t bad either.

It all began in late 2002, when Chris Gobble, then a recently-fired local pharmaceutical sales rep, visited the Marstiller Law Firm in Richmond to get something off his chest.

The firm’s President Phil Marstiller has a distinct advantage in taking on giant corporations. He started his career defending them in such cases for firms like Hazel,Thomas, Fisk and Reed Smith.

So Marstiller listened to Gobble tell the tale of how he had been fired from Forest Pharmaceuticals for questioning some of its practices – in particular giving reps free reign to wine, dine and grease the pockets of doctors in hopes of persuading them to prescribe certain drugs the company manufactures.

Gobble was onto something.

Investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office ensued. And yesterday Marstiller announced that Forest and its parent company, New York-based Forest Laboratories, agreed to a $313 million settlement for civil and criminal charges.

The stress of being a whistleblower cost Gobble eight years of his life and his marriage, according to Marstiller. But in a few days a pretty big check will arrive.

As part of the settlement, Gobble will get $10.9 million from Forest. Forest will also pay $88.8 million plus interest to the U.S. government and $60.3 million plus interest to 21 states including Virginia.

“It was a mammoth undertaking,” said Marstiller. “I am very pleased and proud that I did the very best I could to put together a team and take on a giant-like force.”

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing he took down a goliath, Marstiller, 66, also finally gets paid for what he says are innumerable amounts of hours he and his team spent on this case without pay. Marstiller and the two other firms that worked on the case will share 45 percent of Gobble’s settlement.

Besides not getting paid during the battle, Marstiller said their case involved surviving the intimidating tactics that deep-pocketed companies and their teams of lawyers can employ in such situations.

“They have all the money on their side,” Marstiller said. “They try to paper you death. They try to bully you.”

There were times Marstiller wasn’t sure he could win. “At the very end it’s extraordinarily satisfying that you’ve brought a giant like that to its knees.”

And at one point there was a chance Marstiller could have gone to jail because of the case.

The case was filed under seal, which means it is kept secret while the government investigates the claims. Not even Forest was made aware of the case. It is against the law for anyone involved to discuss the case. But the case was somehow brought up in Gobble’s divorce proceeding and Marstiller, bound by law not utter a word of the Forest case, received two subpoenas.

He was faced with a decision to either break the law by compromising the case or break the law by not responding to the subpoenas. He of course chose the latter.

“I was prepared to go to jail,” Marstiller said, though it never came to pass. “I had to tell my sons, ‘your father may be going to jail and I can’t tell you why.’”

Gobble could not be reached for comment.

Forest Laboratories issued a press release saying that it is pleased to bring this issue to a close and is dedicated to operating in compliance with all laws and regulations.

So how does a lawyer celebrate such a victory?

Marstiller says he took his new wife of less than a year out on a date in Middleburg, Va., where they moved late last year.

“When it happened – we went out to a small restaurant and quietly had a glass of champagne,” Marstiller said. “That’s the way I choose to celebrate.”

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