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Whistle-Blowers and Health Care A Public Good

October 20, 2009

Prosecutors aided by whistle-blowers have obtained record-breaking settlements with pharmaceutical firms in the last year, highlighting the role of insiders in holding health-care providers and related industries accountable for their actions. In January, a $1.4 billion settlement was reached for off-label marketing of an Eli Lilly drug, and in September, Pfizer agreed to a $2.3 billion settlement. States such as Pennsylvania have enacted patient safety laws that create a role for whistle-blowers in hospitals and other institutions.

The Health Law Program at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University will bring together a panel of experts and a whistle-blower to discuss the legal landscape surrounding those who expose wrongs in the health care arena on Friday, Oct. 23. The event will be held from 8:00 am to 12:30 p.m. at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University, 3320 Market St., Philadelphia, PA.

“Litigation involving whistle-blowers has emerged as a powerful regulatory tool for bringing to light billing irregularities, failures to disclose drug side-effects, and off-label drug marketing schemes,” said Barry R. Furrow, director of the Health Law Program and professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law.

Future health reforms will increase opportunities for fraud and false claims, Furrow warns, since new policies will inevitably move more public money into the system.

The event will explore issues in the delivery and regulation of health care that have created a ripe climate for whistle-blowers as well as the laws, including the Civil War era False Claims Act, that hold health care providers and companies to account.

The panelists will include:

• Barry R. Furrow (moderator) is director of the Health Law Program and professor of law at the Earle Mack School of Law. A pioneer in the field of health law, Professor Furrow is the lead author of the nation’s most widely-used casebook on the topic, “Health Law: Cases, Materials and Problems,” now in its 6th edition. A treatise he co-authored on health law has been cited three times by the U.S. Supreme Court.

• Thomas M. Gallagher is a partner with Pepper Hamilton and chair of the firm’s White Collar and Corporate Investigations Practice Group. His clients include pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, hospitals, providers, physicians and other individuals. A former prosecutor in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, he led the investigation and prosecution of numerous complex criminal matters, including the conviction of and civil settlement with Schering-Plough, which resulted in a combined civil and criminal fine of $345 million.

• Virginia Gibson is the First Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Under Ms. Gibson’s leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Delaware obtained record-breaking recoveries for that time in a pharmaceutical fraud prosecution of AstraZeneca, and in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has secured substantial recoveries on behalf of the government, including an early 2009 $1.4 billion settlement with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and part of the $2.3 billion recovery against Pfizer on Sept. 2, 2009.

• Thad Guyer is a partner with T.M. Guyer and Ayers & Friends, PC, an international law firm that focuses exclusively on employee whistle-blower litigation in state and federal courts and agencies. Based in Medford, Ore., the firm handles cases in the health care industry, among others, and litigates half of its cases on behalf of the Government Accountability Project under its Adjunct Attorney Program. The firm also brings cases before the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, which resolves employment disputes between the U.N. and its employees.

• Allen Jones is a former fraud investigator with the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, who was fired in 2006 after he informed his superiors that drug companies were funneling money to state officials and refused to comply with a directive to halt his investigation. Ultimately, the former chief pharmacist of Pennsylvania was convicted of felony conflicts of interest charges related to payments from drug companies, the director of the mental health system in Texas was removed from his position, and the federal government officially withdrew its support of the treatment guidelines which formed the basis of Mr. Jones’s initial investigation.

• Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, currently divides his time between teaching and practice. He teaches at Rutgers School of Law-Camden and Princeton University. He previously has taught at the University of California School of Law, the Georgetown Law Center, the University of Pittsburgh Law School and the Department of Justice Advocacy Institute. As U.S. attorney, Mr. Litman launched and directed a number of law-enforcement initiatives, while overseeing a 20 percent increase in federal prosecutions and personally litigating cases in both the district court and the court of appeals.

• Stephen A. Sheller is the founder and managing partner of Sheller, P.C. in Philadelphia, which is one of the most respected plaintiff's personal injury and class action law firms in the Eastern U.S. and has handled some of the nation’s largest whistle-blower cases. Sheller’s firm played an instrumental role in two historic pharmaceutical settlements resulting from whistle-blower cases: a $1.4 billion settlement involving off-label marketing of Eli Lilly's Zyprexa in January 2009 and Pfizer's $2.3 billion settlement eight months later.


News Media Contacts:

Noah Cohen, Office of University Relations 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or

Sarah Greenblatt, Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University 215-571-4804 or

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