Order in the Court: Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly & BMS Face Legal Battles



Novo Nordisk is in the crosshairs of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over age discrimination complaints.

The government filed a lawsuit against the diabetes-focused company following a complaint from a 62-year-old employee who was denied a lateral transfer due to her age. According to the EEOC report, the individual has been an obesity care specialist employed by the company since 2015. She applied for a similar position that was vacant at another company facility that was closer to her home. However, that role went to a "less-qualified 33-year-old individual from another state," the EEOC said, citing the complaint.

An internal investigation into the complaint was conducted by Novo Nordisk and found that the hiring manager violated the company's anti-dis­crimination policy. The manager violated the guideline because he wanted someone who would be in the position "long-term," EEOC said. Although the manager was found to be in violation of the policy, the 62-year-old employee was refused the transfer to the other facility closer to her home.

The EEOC noted that this conduct violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and filed a lawsuit against Novo Nordisk after failing to reach a settlement through a conciliation process. 

"The EEOC's prosecution of this case underscores that the ADEA protects employees from adverse decisions motivated by age discrimination, including those involving lateral transfers," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office, in a statement. 

Novo Nordisk isn't the only pharmaceutical company to come under legal scrutiny this week. Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, another diabetes powerhouse, is under fire after a whistleblower said she was terminated after reporting manufacturing concerns at a New Jersey facility. 

Amrit Mula, a former human resources officer, claims she was fired for bringing manufacturing issues to light that ultimately forced an investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice. The New Jersey facility manufactures several biologics for the company, as well as type 2 diabetes drug Trulicty, Reuters reported

The New Jersey manufacturing site had been flagged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over quality control data and auditing failures. 

The company ultimately terminated Mula, and she filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Eli Lilly. 

"Lilly executives responded by marginalizing, harassing and eventually terminating her position under false pretenses," the lawsuit said.

In response, Lilly called the accusations baseless and said it would defend itself in court. 

Eli Lilly was also at the center of a lawsuit filed in a Washington state court over claims that a patient suffered a hemorrhage that led to a stroke after taking the erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis. The plaintiff said in his lawsuit that Eli Lilly should have provided warnings that the drug could lead to a stroke.

The state supreme court ultimately sided with Eli Lilly, agreeing that adequate warning was provided through the "learned intermediary doctrine," which means that Eli Lilly satisfied its obligation regarding the risks of medication by informing prescribing physicians and not necessarily informing patients directly. 

In other legal news, Bristol Myers Squibb forked over $11 million to settle claims that it, along with Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson, blocked generic HIV treatments from hitting the market. The lawsuit filed three years ago claimed the companies used anticompetitive tactics to keep prices artificially high for their respective HIV treatments. Drugs singled out in the complaint include Truvada, Descovy, Atripla, Genvoya and Odefsey. Also, the lawsuit named Viread, Emtriva, Complera, Stribild, Vemlidy, Reyataz, Evotaz, Prezista, Prezcobix, Edurant, Symtuza and Tybost.

As BioSpace previously reported, the complaint alleges that the three drug makers agreed not to make fixed-dose combination treatments with generic versions of the components, which kept prices high. 

While BMS handed over the $11 million to settle claims, Gilead Sciences and J&J are still aiming for a trial regarding the allegations. If the trial proceeds, it could begin next year. 

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