PETER ROST: PHARMA MARKETING EXPERT WITNESS. AWP, MEDICAL DEVICE EXPERT.: Former Pfizer Employee Testifies about Document Destruction

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Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Pfizer Marketing Vice President providing services as a medical device and drug expert witness and pharmaceutical marketing expert. Judge Sanders: "The court agrees with defendants' view that Dr. Rost is a very adept and seasoned expert witness." He is also the author of Emergency Surgery, The Whistleblower and Killer Drug. You can reach him on rostpeter (insert symbol) Please read the terms of use agreement and privacy policy for this blog carefully.

Former Pfizer Employee Testifies about Document Destruction

A former Pfizer employee claims that Pfizer colleagues destroyed documents related to a federal investigation of Celebrex and Bextra. The employee recently testified about these events before a federal grand jury in Boston.

This is his story, edited for length and to preserve confidentiality:

"I just finished reading your book and it is amazing to see many parallels to my recent experience. Although not a senior VP, I was a -----------. My territory was ----------- and I really enjoyed my job and the company. In the fall of 2004, I encountered a sales rep in a hospital parking lot and started chatting. Our conversation quickly turned to a common e-mail sent out by Pfizer to 'retain all documents related to Bextra/Celebrex.'

In the same week, a group of individuals from our geography also received notice to turn in our laptops so they could basically 'harvest' information from our harddrives (my VP informed me not to worry about that kind of request, that it happens all the time).

The rep that I was speaking with said that he received both messages and that he had spent the weekend "cleaning" his laptop as well as helping his less senior colleagues clean theirs, as well. This, of course, set off a big red flag in the back of my mind--but I didn't say anything to the rep.

I just took it in and went about my business. I had important information of 'illegal' activities going on in our territory--specifically, deleting <> files from laptops after being told very clearly to 'retain'; however, I stewed for a couple of days about who I should report this to. At the time, Pfizer did not communicate a clear direction to report these deeds.

Thinking that I would do the right thing, I informed my manager, as well as the DM and Regional manager of the rep that I spoke with. I quickly learned that speaking with the DM was a big mistake--by the tone of our conversation, it became clear to me that the reps were ordered to take these actions.

Anyway, long story longer: I was suddenly asked to meet with Pfizer attorneys and informed that I was being questioned as an employeed and that I didn't need my own counsel. I'm a very trusting person, and still believing that I was doing the right thing, complied with all of their requests. After meeting with a big NY law firm and answering their questions, I was asked to come back in a second time to meet with a Washington, DC law firm.

I didn't hear any follow up from these meetings. I answered all the questions truthfully about the reps, my interactions, etc. They asked a lot of questions about activities that I was not aware of, and of course, unable to comment on.

After that, I didn't hear any follow-up or feedback for giving this 'cooperation'--Until early in 2005.

I was contacted by the Pfizer attorneys and informed that the Federal Prosecuter in Boston wanted me to go in front of a grand jury. I was extremely nervous about the whole idea. But, rest assured, the Pfizer attorneys, Covington and Burling, made sure that I was confortable.

So much so, that they asked me back twice and had a couple of conference calls to 'coach' me on how to answer the questions. Making sure that I kept to very succinct yes/no answers and did not go into any more detail than I was asked to.

Being naive, I agreed to let Pfizer provide me with my legal counsel (apparently, the Pfizer lawyers could not represent me, but they informed me that my lawer would be -----------and that he would contact me--highly discouraging me, once again, to get my own representation).

At that time, Pfizer was going through another re-organization. In the Spring of 2005, I was told that my territory no longer existed and that I was 'displaced' from my job--my counterpart, who shared the same territory, however, got to keep her position.

I still had a position in Pfizer, but I would have to relocate (----------- was one lovely locale offered to me). I had until ----------- to find another place in Pfizer or take a severence package. In the meantime, my workload decreased and I was actively interviewing for other positions - with the blessing (but, of course not a reference) from my manager.

I had to go to Boston one day early for, what my adopted-Attorney called a 'prep' meeting. When I entered the room, there were about seven people around the table representing FBI, HHS, GAO, and of course the Fed prosecuter and assistants.

I was taken by surprise by this--and by the questioning, felt like I was the one being investigated. The next day, I was in front of the grand jury for maybe 30 minutes tops. I have to give the prosecutor credit, she was well-prepared and asked me very specific questions to tell the story that she wanted to in front of that audience.

Anyway, I ultimately left Pfizer, and after bouncing around a little, finally landed in a great job with a small company. I'm very happy to have that experience behind me.

I hope you find resolution with your ordeal--and thanks for writing the book; it helps stick up for the smaller, more trusting people like myself that believe in a company so much that they get led into this trap."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trial Registration--A Great Idea Switches From Ignored to Irresistible

Funny thing that the Pfizer employee mentioned by Dr. Rost in this BLOG post was prepared and ‘coached’ by Pfizer-supplied legal counsel about Bextra/Celebrex –related document destruction witnessed at Pfizer. There are a number of ethically questionable events I witnessed and questioned over the years. I’m not an attorney so I don’t know what’s legal or not, just what smells wrong and what's in Pfizer's business policies Blue Book. The recent untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel with Zoloft found in his system reminded me of one Pfizer Zoloft experience. But the Pfizer employee account of witnessing management-sanctioned document destruction reminded me of yet another.

At about the same time as the above Pfizer employee was witnessing Bextra/Celebrex document destruction I was witnessing the creation of clinical trial report summaries for publication on the PHARMA clinical trials registry. This was a very high-profile project given Eliot Spitzer’s New York state settlement with GSK ( Pfizer was actively editing these clinical trial result summaries and presenting information for public consumption that was not contained in the original (final) trial results report! Since the Chief M.D. (we'll just call her/him J.e.F.f.) was also involved in this level of detail (!!), when I raised this 'creative editing' issue on many occasions (n writing) I was told that it was up to another department to decide what information the public would eventually see—and whether or not it accurately reflected the results of these expensive and time-consuming clinical trials.

While reviewing particular Bextra clinical trial results, and based upon the product labeling, I did not think that clinical trial participants were adequately informed of the risks of taking Bextra, specifically the known risks of GI Bleeding. Although these clinical trials were long since completed when I raised the issue, I was told (in writing) by my supervisor that should such a situation have occurred, it is up to another group to raise the issue! Good old Pfizer leader behaviors at work, huh?

Oh the things we Pfizer employees have seen. Could there be another reason for the difficulties sleeping during that time?

Blogger Markbnj said...

You guys have convinced me.

I will NOT take an IT position at any Pharma Company.

I HAVE ethics, and don't want to lose them, or RISK losing them!

PS: check out My blog for the latest in why we're no longer a democracy!

Good luck, in the future!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any wonder why Pfizer no longer allows reps to record their
interactions with physicians on the computers?
Now they have reps choose a multiple choice answer on the computer to document their
conversations with physicians. Of course the documentation does not adequately describe the interactions. The notes are so useless that the managers are
directing reps to keep personal written documents regarding physician/office interaction. Make sure the lawyers subpoena all of those binders too!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wall Street Journal, Friday, October 13th:
Wal-Mart didn't show "good faith" in protecting workers' rights
Wal-Mart Loses Pennsylvania Suit On Rest Breaks

October 13, 2006; Page A4

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. knowingly violated Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing employees to work during rest breaks and off the clock, a state jury found.

The Bentonville, Ark., retailer, increasingly under fire for its labor practices, faces paying minimum damages of $62 million according to state labor statutes, and the total could easily exceed $100 million, plaintiff's lawyer Michael Donovan said in an interview. The Pennsylvania jury is slated to hear arguments on damages early today, he said.

During the six-week trial, former Wal-Mart workers testified they were pressured to skip breaks or cut them short by store managers who had been promised bonuses for cutting costs.

Wal-Mart's attorney, Neal Manne, argued that Wal-Mart had paid its employees properly and said the lead plaintiffs were part of a small group of disgruntled workers. Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley declined to comment on the verdict until the jury had ruled on damages.

The jury agreed with plaintiffs that Wal-Mart didn't show "good faith" in protecting workers' rights for rest breaks and improperly forced them to work off the clock. But it ruled in Wal-Mart's favor on a separate charge that it denied workers meal breaks.

Wal-Mart was sued by two former employees on behalf of 187,000 current and former hourly Wal-Mart workers. The lawsuit covers labor practices at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores in 1998 to 2001.

"Today's decision is another harsh indictment of Wal-Mart's pattern of disrespect for its workers and disregard for state law," said Andrew Grossman, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, a union-backed critic. "For years it has been obvious that Wal-Mart is willing to cut corners when it comes to its employees."

Wal-Mart is facing similar suits around the U.S. The company still faces at least seven other major class-action lawsuits in the U.S., including a federal sex-discrimination suit filed in 2000 on behalf of 1.6 million former and current female workers.

Write to James Covert at james.covert(at)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For three years I worked for Pfizer and witnessed the inappropriate use of Washington Legal Foundtation Reprints being used promotionally. In addition, I saw representatives making claims on hand-written notes to leave with the physicians. Lastly, I wondered how so many of my colleagues could make 10-12 calls a day when I could only make 4-5; a call being a feature, benefit, and close. As it turns out, most weren't and they were lieing about the calls because management required it of them. Pfizer wants to be seen as one of the most productive pharmaceutical companies and companies are benchmarked by how many calls their representatives make. Pfizer wishes to be seen as the most productive when a biopharmaceutical company has a new potentially blockbuster product and they need a company to partner with. Pfizer wants to be that company so they have their representatives fabricate calls to get them to some arbitrary, yet unattainable, call average. What a sham. It is one of the reasons, I believe, that Pfizer will never appear on any list ranking leadership amongst corporations.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sat in monthly LAT meetings, where I heard more than one manager pressure their Bextra reps to sell more by some very questionable tactics...including calling on dentists for post dental procedure pain. - completely off label - What was most important @ Pfizer was the sales numbers, meeting quota meant delivering to stock holders, which meant you get to keep your job!
Didn't help and most are gone anyway.


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