By Brian J. McCormick, Jr.
Pharmaceutical sales representatives could find themselves in a conspiracy to defraud the government. Drug companies place tremendous pressure on sales representatives, sometimes setting and demanding unrealistic sales goals and quotas. Drug representatives may be in a position where they need to do whatever it takes to make the sale, and not realize they are acting illegally.
The pressure representatives are under might manifest in bribes or kickbacks to physicians to induce them to purchase certain drugs. Sales departments might be encouraged to promote a drug for a use that is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which is called off-label marketing. Other times the pharmaceutical company may overcharge medical facilities for prescriptions.
Drug representatives and pharmaceutical employees who work alongside sales teams may not witness one clear method of fraud. Kickbacks are most common. However, from my experience as a whistleblower litigation attorney, I have seen cases involving off-label marketing, overcharging, and upcoding, to name a few.
The most important piece of advice pharmaceutical sales representatives should keep in mind is that it’s prudent to seek advice at the very first moment they have suspicions of fraud. As more time passes, the severity of the fraud likely grows. Ignoring known misconduct might also place the sales representative in a compromising situation, as a court or investigative agency may construe his/her inaction as contributing to the illegal acts.
If a sales representative has participated or is actively engaging in some of the acts above, he/she has several options. He/she can report the activity internally, reveal his/her actions and the company’s misconduct to the government, contact a whistleblower litigation attorney to assess the situation, or cease illegal activity and search for a new job. None of these options necessarily provide a less complicated solution than another, as every situation is unique.
Take responsibility and seek the guidance and advice of a whistleblower attorney at the first possible opportunity. A meeting with an attorney can help a drug representative learn the federal protections available to whistleblowers and make the process for pursuing a complaint much easier to understand. The federal government also offers rewards to whistleblowers. A simple consultation with an attorney can address these issues and provide peace of mind to the sales representative.