Amgen Whistleblower Fights to Unseal Documents
Published: Jan 15, 2013
Despite a $762 million settlement between Amgen and the US Department of Justice for off-label marketing of various medicines, the clash between the biotech and one of the whistleblowers is not over yet. A bitter dispute, in fact, continues to rage over an arbitration award – and the related proceedings – involving a former Amgen employee. The long-running battle has pitted the biotech against Elena Ferrante, who once worked as a sales rep promoting the Enbrel rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but claimed Amgen sales managers encouraged reps to promote off-label and encouraged physicians to prescribe Enbrel to patients who may not have needed the drug. She also maintained the reps were also instructed to cull patient medical records and give the information to Amgen, which violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In October 2006, Ferrante filed a complaint against the biotech for $10 million before an arbitrator, claiming she was fired in retaliation the year before for not complying with an allegedly improper marketing strategy. She was forced to seek arbitration because this requirement was imposed by Amgen (AMGN) on employees who filed such disputes. Recently, though, an arbitrator dismissed her claim. In response, Ferrante filed a lawsuit in state court in New Jersey, where she once worked as an Amgen sales rep, alleging that Amgen manipulated the arbitration process. According to the complaint, there were undisclosed relationships involving the arbitrator and attorneys for Amgen, and is she seeking to have the award overturned. Specifically, the complaint states the arbitrator, retired federal judge John Lifland, filed disclosures that were “misleading and incomplete.” He “failed to disclose that he had an ownership interest” in JAMS, the arbitration service chosen by Amgen, and as a result, he had a “financial interest in prolonging and complicating the proceeding as he got a percentage of all billings” generated by the long-running arbitration, the complaint states.