A hero to all of us — except Big Pharma

I think the best story I read on Monday’s $425 million Cephalon settlement was the law firm Phillips & Cohen’s press release:

The government’s investigation into Cephalon Inc.’s illegal marketing practices that culminated in today’s $425,000,000 settlement and guilty plea by the pharmaceutical company began in January 2003 with a Cephalon sales representative in Ohio.

The sales representative, Bruce Boise, refused to follow company-ordered sales strategies to convince doctors to prescribe Cephalon’s Actiq, Gabitril and Provigil drugs for unapproved (“off-label’) uses because he was worried the sales practices were illegal and the “off-label” uses were dangerous for patients.

Boise was so concerned about Cephalon’s off-label marketing that he contacted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform them of what the company was doing and then agreed to wear a wire to a company sales conference to help the government gather evidence.

The decision to report Cephalon to the FDA cost Boise his job and future employment in the pharmaceutical industry. But his information helped end Cephalon’s illegal marketing practices that put patients at risk and led to today’s settlement.

The line that really hit me — perhaps because I’m relatively unfamiliar with corporate culture, having spent my life as an entrepreneur — is that Boise’s actions cost him the opportunity for “future employment in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Maybe I’m crazy, but if we lived in a world where the pharmaceutical giants were good corporate citizens aspiring to do things on the up and up, wouldn’t Bruce Boise be exactly the kind of guy they would want to hire?

I guess not. I’m reminded of a famous quotation by somebody or other: “Capitalism is the belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

I tell you what, though, Bruce. If I had a job for you here, I’d offer it to you in a heartbeat.

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