Glaxo whistleblower wins major victory

Whistle-blower Cheryl Eckard has
won $96 million as part of a $750 million penalty against GlaxoSmithKline over
faulty drug manufacturing in a case she says was driven by worries about
consumer safety.

“This is not something I ever
wanted to do, but because of patient safety issues, it was necessary,” she
said after the British drug giant’s settlement was announced.

Eckard, 51, was the company’s
quality control manager. She discovered violations at the company’s plant in
Puerto Rico in 2002 and reported them to her bosses, her lawyers said. She was
fired in 2003 after repeatedly reporting problems to the company, and she later
filed a lawsuit.

GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pay the
millions in fines, penalties and settlements to resolve claims that it
knowingly made and sold adulterated drugs, including Paxil, a popular antidepressant.
Other problems include the failure to guarantee that Bactroban, an ointment,
and an anti-nausea drug, Kytril, were not contaminated, according to reports.
No patients seem to have been harmed by the problems at the plant, a prosecutor
said.

Eckard, who worked in North
Carolina, is to receive $96 million as a whistle-blower under the federal False
Claims Act. The law offers a cut of the money recovered as incentive for people
with knowledge of false claims to come forward.

Her lawyers, Neil Getnick and
Leslie Ann Skillen, believe her share is the single-biggest whistle-blower
award in the U.S., NECN reported.

Eckard was sent to the plant in
Cidra, Puerto Rico, to fix problems the Food and Drug Administration had cited
in a warning letter.

¬†She found that the company’s premier manufacturing
facility had a contaminated water system, an air system that allowed products
to be cross-contaminated and pills of different strengths mixed in the same
bottles, among other problems.

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