Week Adjourned: 5.29.10

Kiss the week goodbye…Memorial Day Weekend here we come!

Wyeth's inspiration for marketing Rapamune?Top Class Actions

Demented Segmented Marketing. A couple of former employees who blew the whistle on Wyeth in 2005 by filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company refiled an amended complaint this week, alleging that the company illegally promoted its kidney transplant drug Rapamune for use with other organ transplants—the Swiss Army knife of meds!— for which the drug is not indicated. You know—heart, lung, liver, pancreas—essential organs—that kind of thing…  

And , yes—there’s more, the complaint claims Wyeth targeted African American patients, who are a high-risk patient group, despite the lack of evidence to support its use in this population. Sadly, this all sounds par for the course by now. Oh—by the way—Wyeth is now owned by Pfizer, and Pfizer, if you recall, settled a whistleblower lawsuit in September 2009—paying $102 million to six whistleblowers who brought a suit over its marketing and promotion of the prescription arthritis medication Bextra, and ordered to pay $2.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties. Pfizer also agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge for promoting Bextra and 12 other drugs for unapproved uses and dosages.

Anyway—back to Rapamune. The two whistleblowers who filed the suit are ex-Wyeth sales reps— their turf was hospitals—so they are in position to know. The list of allegations on the complaint is pretty lengthy and makes for some shocking reading. But it boils down to illegal promotion and kickbacks in exchange for prescriptions written. Thing is, this could affect numerous transplant recipients across the country: 

 “Despite limited data on high-risk patients, Wyeth targeted transplant centers that catered primarily to African-American patients, typically in urban areas. In 2005, Wyeth’s sales management selected Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center as a center on which to focus a Wyeth marketing plan designed to rapidly increase or accelerate Rapamune sales in a 90 day period. Einstein’s transplant patient population was approximately 75 percent African-American in 2005,” the suit states. 

Nice to know these folks had the patients’ best interests at heart…no pun intended.

Top Settlements

New Wal-mart Recycling Program: Lawsuits? It’s business as usual for Wal-Mart—one of our profoundly regular, if not ignorant contributors—has  settled yet another employment class action this week. “No,” you say. “Not again!”

Oh yes—again, and again, and again, and again, and—well—you get the picture.

This time the class consisted of the population of a small town—28,000—former employees in Oregon. Yikes! Haven’t been able to confirm that number—seems awfully high—especially given the size of the settlement—$4 million—(it probably got ‘Rolled Back’). 

The lawsuit has been going on for five years, and the allegations are—you guessed it—violations of Oregon’s wage and hours laws. Specifically, the suit alleged that Wal-Mart didn’t pay in a timely fashion, if at all, wages, overtime or earned vacation owed to employees who had left the company. Who knows, maybe nickel-and-diming their employees helps to pay their legal fees. 

Hi-Fashion…Low finance. It appears that $4M is the magic number this week…Polo Ralph Lauren employees agreed to a $4 million tentative settlement with the fashion retailer, maybe bringing to an end four years of litigation. A final hearing to determine approval of the settlement is scheduled for August, 2010. 

The lawsuit involves 6,700 former California-based employees, who claimed that they were denied rest breaks and were ‘contained’ (contained? Sounds like a term associated with terrorist activities—oh no, that’s detained), for up to 30 minutes at a go, without pay, while managers checked their bags for stolen items. Furthermore, the suit alleges that Polo used fraud to deny its employees overtime pay as well as to reduce future commission earnings if they didn’t meet minimum commission requirements.  

You know, this stuff is seriously tired. 

Ok. That’s it for this week. See you at the bar! (Oh yes. That bar)—and maybe a barbeque or two…

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