Taking on corporate giants can feel like tilting at windmills, but John Kopchinski’s six-year legal battle against Pfizer Inc just made him a rich man.
The Gulf War veteran and former Pfizer sales representative will earn more than $51.5 million as a result of his whistleblower lawsuit against the world’s biggest drugmaker and the record penalty the company must pay the U.S. government for its massive marketing transgressions.
Kopchinski, appalled by Pfizer’s tactics in selling the pain drug Bextra, filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in 2003, sparking federal and state probes that led to Wednesday’s agreement by the company to pay $2.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties and plead guilty to a felony charge for promoting Bextra and 12 other drugs for unapproved uses and doses.
“In the Army I was expected to protect people at all costs,” Kopchinski said in a statement. “At Pfizer I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives.
“I couldn’t do that,” added Kopchinski, 45, who was fired by Pfizer in March of 2003, two years before the company pulled Bextra from the market over concerns it raised the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
At the time of his dismissal after raising his concerns with the company, Kopchinski had a baby son and his wife was pregnant with twins. He went from earning about $125,000 a year to living off his retirement fund before landing a job with an insurance company for $40,000 a year.
Kopchinski’s lead attorney from the firm of Phillips & Cohen LLP, said large rewards are justified because of what whistleblowers must endure, often for many years, after complaints within the company go unheeded.
Kopchinski and five other whistleblowers will earn more than $102 million in payments from the U.S. government under the False Claims Act through which individuals can reap rewards for exposing corporate wrongdoing.
At Pfizer, he was selling the epilepsy drug Neurontin when a previous whistleblower suit was filed against the company over similar illegal promotion tactics that led to stiff penalties and a form of corporate probation.
At the time he was told by managers that the Neurontin suit would be in the news and any physicians who asked questions should be told it was just complaints from a disgruntled former employee, Kopchinski said. Ironically, after filing the Bextra suit, “I was the disgruntled former employee,” he said.
“What you see here is a company which essentially had a culture of corruption,” said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, a U.S. nonprofit organization that helps connect whistleblowers with attorneys on False Claims Act cases. He called the $2.3 billion settlement “a jaw-dropping amount of money.”
If you or a family member has been personally injured because of the fault of someone else: by the use of dangerous and defective drugs, bad products, or toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Defective Drugs Product Liability Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.