Former Novartis executive wins $1.5M in whistleblower retaliation lawsuit

More than four years after a former executive at Novartis sued the drugmaker claiming she lost her job for suggesting a drug study might be a type of kickback, a jury has sided in her favor.

Min Amy Guo claimed the company fired her after she voiced concerns about the planned study, which centered on the cancer drug Afinitor and would be conducted by drug distributor McKesson. Now, after many years of court proceedings and a trial, she prevailed with a verdict worth nearly $1.5 million, Stat reports.

Guo’s suit said Novartis proposed the drug study in 2012, but instead of assigning the project to Guo’s team—she headed the company’s Health Economics and Outcomes Research Group—it was given to its Oncology Scientific Operations-Managed Markets group to manage. That team is “focused on client interaction,” the lawsuit said.

Later, Guo said she felt “vindicated” when another Novartis executive raised the same concerns and canceled the contract. Still, Guo claimed Novartis retaliated against her and fired her.

A Novartis spokesman said the company is "pleased that the jury agreed with Novartis that Ms. Guo violated company policy." 

"However, we are disappointed in and disagree with the jury's verdict in favor of the plaintiff," he added. "She was terminated for legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons, including her violation of company policy. We will vigorously pursue all post-verdict and appellate options in the case."

RELATED: Novartis accused again of kickback tactics in new whistleblower suit

Novartis is no stranger to kickback allegations. The company currently faces allegations from U.S. officials who say it was “essentially buying scripts” with kickbacks to doctors, and the company has been embroiled in a scandal in Greece for two years.

Aside from those scandals, the company suffered another hit to its reputation last year when it became public that the company paid former Donald Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen $1.2 million for consulting services during the presidential transition.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from Novartis.