Pfizer pays up to whistle blower
by Ralph Nader
Why would Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, so mistreat and silence one of their top molecular biologists that a federal jury in Connecticut awarded her $1.37 million in damages last week?
The unraveling answer promises to tear open the curtain covering hazards confronting tens of thousands of scientists and assistants in corporate and university labs doing genetic engineering work with viruses and bacteria.
Becky McClain’s lawsuit against Pfizer claimed that the company’s sloppiness in 2002-03 exposed her to an engineered form of the lentivirus, a virus related to one that could lead to immune deficiencies. Pfizer denied any connection between its lab practices and Ms. McClain’s recurring paralysis and other illnesses.
Back and forth over three years came the scientist’s claims and Pfizer’s denials during which she had to leave her job amidst the increasing retaliatory behavior of her ten-year employer.
Pfizer is known for playing hardball and violating laws. Last year it had to pay the Justice Department one of the largest fines – half civil, half criminal – for illegal promotion of its drugs for unapproved uses. The fine – $2.4 billion – avoided criminal charges and prosecution, either of the company or officials, and became just another cost of doing business.</em>