New questions about the AstraZeneca scandal.
Question Authority has learned new information about the AstraZeneca scandal involving, Michael Zubillaga, 50, Regional Sales Director, AstraZeneca Oncology.
In an AstraZeneca newsletter, which got Mr. Zubillaga fired the day after the content was revealed on Question Authority, Mr. Zubillaga stated, "There is a big bucket of money sitting in every office. Every time you go in, you reach your hand in the bucket and grab a handful. The more times you are in, the more money goes in your pocket. Every time you make a call, you are looking to make more money."
The person who wrote down Mr. Zubillaga's words, Lisa Mossburg, was not a journalist, nor an in-house public relations person or someone independent of Mr. Zubillaga; she was simply a regular Oncology Sales Representative, Question Authority has learned from a source inside AstraZeneca.
If true, for a Regional Sales Director to use company resources and ask one of his subordinates to write up what he may initially hoped was a flattering story about himself, raises a number of additional questions, and at a minimum would appear unseemly.
The fact that "this newsletter was produced outside of AstraZeneca's required approval and review processes," according to AstraZeneca, also raises numerous questions about AstraZeneca's internal control system as it relates to the conduct of AstraZeneca's senior management and what kind of cowboy mentality exists within AstraZeneca's US organization.
More importantly, Question Authority has also learned that there have allegedly been several Code of Conduct (888 244-1769) reports from employees about Mike Zubillaga since November of 2006. Two or three of these reports allegedly involved Mr. Zubillaga's instructions to use Medical Science Liaisons (called Regional Scientific Managers at AstraZeneca) to sell off-label and for reps to coordinate these efforts using cell phones (allegedly to avoid voicemail and email so as to not leave a permanent record).
If true, AstraZeneca should have investigated and filed a report with the Office of the Inspector General, since on June 4, 2003, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP and AstraZeneca LP was forced to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (“CIA”) with the Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), based on prior illegal conduct.
The CIA is effective until June 3, 2008, and under the agreement, Mr. Zubillaga would have received extensive training in how to market and sell pharmaceuticals. More importantly, if AstraZeneca determines through any means that there is a reportable event, (such as a Regional Sales Director accused of off-label marketing), AstraZeneca must notify OIG in writing, within 30 days.
It will be interesting to find out if AstraZeneca took any such action with respect to the allegations above.
If the company received such notices and did not take such action, AstraZeneca may be in breach of their agreement with the OIG, and would have to pay certain fines. If the OIG decided that AstraZeneca was in Material Breach of the agreement, AstraZeneca could be excluded from participation in Federal health care programs.
Please note that the alleged code of conduct violations may have no foundation, they may have been fully investigated and dismissed by AstraZeneca, or they may still be under investigation. They may also have already been reported to the OIG.
What can be verified is that this statement, "Sorry, I'm not willing to face civil or criminal fines for MZ or anyone else. AZ is currently under close scrutiny by the Office of Inspector General under a five year Corporated Integrity Agreement" was made on March 7, 2007, one month ago on AstraZeneca's message board for sales reps and that a vigorous debate appear to have taken place on that tread about "MZ," and how "MZ" conducted his business.
One response was this: "I am sure MZ is scared of you little cowards, remember management never takes the fall it is always the reps so call the number and most of you will be let go by the end of the week, just comply and you will be rewarded."
That comment was followed by this one: "That Number is BS I called it once to report an HR person. The next thing I new I got thrown under the bus by my rsd and dsm."
Chilling comments, indeed.