The whistleblower in the GlaxoSmithKline class action suit, Cheryl Eckard, recently appeared on the popular news show 60 Minutes to talk about the case with interviewer Scott Pelley. During the interview, she mentioned that she was fired after urging Glaxo officials to do something about the conditions in a Glaxo manufacturing plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico.
She stated that from August 2002 all the way up until she was fired in May 2003, she had tried to get Glaxo managers to shut down the Cidra plant because of what Pelley referred to as them practicing “bad medicine.” Pelley was referring to what Eckard claimed she found wrong with the production and packaging of drugs like Paxil and Avandia during a survey she conducted that led her to take action. She was referring to her claims that the plant:
- Used tainted water in the production of Avandia and Paxil
- Shipped Paxil that was packaged in the wrong dosages
- Mixed Avandia and Paxil together in the same packages
Eckard ended up having to make a full report to Glaxo’s Compliance Department when the company managers continued to ignore her warnings. In the end, Eckard says that they acted as if her complaints about the plant were unsubstantiated. That is what eventually led her to report the situation to FDA officials in San Juan. She also implied that these actions are what got her fired.
Glaxo denied that implication in a press release.
“The company strongly rejects any claim of retaliation for whistle-blowing,” the Glaxo statement says. “In fact, employees are encouraged to report any concerns they might have to management or through a confidential compliance hotline. Issues raised are investigated, and company policy prohibits any retaliation against employees.”
As a result of these claims made against the Cidra plant, Glaxo settled the class action lawsuits that were filed against them for $750 million. Of that money, $150 million went toward paying fines and the other $600 million went toward participants in the class action. Whistleblower Eckard received $96 million.