Qui Tam whistleblower gets $51.5M from Pfizer

In 2003, John Kopchinski was earning $125,000 a year selling the drug Bextra for Pfizer.  He had a baby son, and his wife was pregnant with twins.  The Gulf War veteran says that, "In the Army, I was expected to protect people at all costs."  At Pfizer, though, he was expected to sell Bextra, even though it raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  After Kopchinski expressed his concerns about Bextra’s safety, Pfizer fired him.  He eventually got a new job paying $40,000 a year.

Kopchinski hired attorney Erika Kelton of Phillips & Cohen.  In 2005, Pfizer withdrew Bextra from the market.  Now Pfizer is pleading guilty to felony charges of promoting Bextra for unapproved uses.  Pfizer will pay penalties of $2.3 billion, and Kopchinski will get a $51.5 million share for filing the "qui tam" lawsuit under the False Claims Act (FCA) that helped the government collect these penalties.  Kopchinski is one of five whistleblowers sharing in the settlement.  He says that he does not expect his life to change much now, according to a news account of this settlement available from Reuters.

Attorney Dean Zerbe, senior counsel to the National Whistleblowers Center, told Reuters and the ABA Journal that he hopes publicity of this settlement will encourage other whistleblowers to come forward with information about fraudulent marketing. "The use of whistleblowers has really opened up the keys to the kingdom in terms of what’s going on in these companies," said Zerbe, who is also a partner at the law firm of Zerbe, Fingeret, Frank and Jadav in Washington. "You’d never find out what’s happening without this kind of reward structure." 

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