200 pharma whistleblowers in line for court

Think Big Pharma has been plagued by whistleblower lawsuits lately? You ain't seen nothin' yet, legal eagles say. Yes, 2009 appears to be the year of the False Claims Act, that federal law that allows whistleblowers to sue--and collect a share of any eventual settlement. After all, the government has announced settlements of more than $4 billion in off-label drug marketing claims, and another trial is already underway.

But there are hundreds more pharma whistleblowers waiting in the wings. There's a backlog of 1,000 cases at the Department of Justice, and drugmakers are involved in 200 of them. "The seeds for these cases were planted a number of years ago, and they're finally coming to fruition," Reuben Guttman, a Washington lawyer who specializes in whistleblower cases, told Gannett.

And if history is any guide to the outcome of those cases, pharma could be in for trouble. Of the top 20 False Claims Act cases in terms of money recovered, 12 included settlements or judgments against drug companies.

PhRMA, the drugmakers' trade group, tried to put a brave face on things in a statement to Gannett: "It's not completely unexpected that the cases would be filed in waves as the government wraps up a group of investigations. And publicity in one case can spawn others." No doubt, especially when some whistleblowers have personally walked away with millions. In any case, we can expect more of this kind of news as the backlogged suits make their way into the light of day.

- get the Gannett analysis

ALSO: The recently settled Omnicare kickback case includes one elderly patient who received 67 different drugs from the nursing home pharmacy. Report