A large cancer drug company recently settled a massive qui tam lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice worth more than $600 million. The lawsuit alleged that the AmerisourceBergen Corporation repackaged oncology drugs that contained bacteria and other non-sterile particles and sent them out to health care providers in Louisiana and throughout the United States. This legal action was initiated by a whistleblower whose actions are protected under the False Claims Act, also called Lincoln’s Law.
Qui tam is a type of action under this law where, on behalf of the federal government, a third party can sue a government contractor. Employees who blow the whistle in these case are sometimes known as “relators,” and they can be rewarded 15 to 25 percent of the recovered funds. Whistleblowers receive such a high reward because there is value in their action and finding employment after turning on an employer can be difficult.
Whistleblowers serve an important function in industries where executives may try to increase profits at the expense of their customers. In this particular case involving oncology drugs, the pharmaceutical company allowed a contaminated product to go on the market in order to reduce costs. This compromised the safety of patients.
For employees who want to come forward in a qui tam lawsuit, finding legal representation should be a top priority. It’s in the best financial interests of companies breaking the law to prevent whistleblowers from coming forward, but “relators” have rights that deserve to be protected with the help of an attorney. Lawyers who focus on this type of practice can often provide valuable support and guidance.