Interview with Novartis Whistleblower's attorney
Yesterday I wrote the story Novartis Fired Whistleblower Who Then Met With FDA: Cancer Drug Approval Delayed.
Today I had an opportunity to speak to David Olagunu's attorney, William J. Courtney, Esq., who has practiced employment law in NJ for over twenty years.
Courtney told me this was a "classic example" of how companies go through the motions when they try to fire a whistleblower. He said that soon after Olagunju started bringing his concerns to Novartis' management, his performance rating went down and he was eventually put on a performance improvement plan and then terminated.
Olagunju is a twenty-year industry veteran with no history of whistleblowing or problems with anyone through his distinguished career, but clearly that changed when he started to object to Novartis' treatment of clinical data they provide to the FDA.
Novartis claimed, Courtney said, that Olagunju was fired for an "inability to get along with people." And of course, this may be a very plausible explanation.
I mean, hypothetically, if you have a bunch of crooks, and you tell the crooks you don't want to do the crooked stuff, then the crooks are going to say that you "don't get along with them." Which is, of course, entirely true. Not that we know if anyone at Novartis is a crook. That's up to the courts, and the FDA, to decide.
Courtney thought it was "very likely that the delay of FDA approval of Novartis' cancer drug Tasigna was due to the meeting Olagunju had with three FDA official on June 28."
Courtney also stated that Novartis had tried to silence Olagunju with a separation package when they terminated his employment. Of course, to get that package, Olagunju would have to sign a legal release that he wouldn't sue them, would never speak badly about Novartis, and so on.
Olagunju was not willing to sign the release, unless the company agreed to undertake an audit of the questionable data submitted to the FDA. Novartis refused to do so and Novartis also rebuffed Olaganju's efforts to work with them after his termination, to review the data.
It is interesting to observe this case. Irrespective of whom is proven right, Novartis now has a mess on their hands, with a delayed drug approval which could cost the company tens of millions of dollars.
Courtney summed it up, saying, "it seems like all these companies have read the same book about how to fire someone, what things to do to protect themselves, but in the end it doesn't really help them."