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Drug Rep Says Ethics Made Him a Target

FLEMINGTON, N.J. (CN) - Merck & Co. ousted a vaccine specialist who says he refused to illegally market certain pharmaceutical drugs to doctors, the man claims in Hunterdon County Court.

David Turkheimer says he was fired several months after his yearly performance-review meeting with district business manager John Connelly. At that meeting, Connelly asked Turkheimer to sell Merck's Gardasil HPV drug to a specific doctor, and tell that doctor the drug would lower insurance rates if prescribed.

Connelly told Turkheimer to suggest that the doctor could face litigation if he didn't prescribe the drug, and that patients could face death if not prescribed with Gardasil, according to the complaint.

Turkheimer, who resides in East Meadow, N.Y., says he expressly told Connelly that such instructions were improper.

After this rebuke, Connelly began to undermine Turkheimer and looked for a way to fire him, according to the complaint.

Turkheimer says he had been taking Ambien for sleep apnea, and Prednisone for a skin rash he developed, but did not know that combining the two medications could cause sleepwalking.

The drugs apparently made him sleepwalk during one morning and drive his vehicle, subsequently crashing into two parked cars near his residence.

After the accident and eventual hospitalization, Turkheimer's wife reported the incident to Merck. Connelly then sought medical records concerning the worker's resulting absences and discovered that Turkheimer had been given antipsychotic drugs in the hospital.

Connelly accused Turkheimer of illegally driving under the influence of a narcotics or alcohol, and advised human resources personnel that Turkheimer was "loopy" and unstable, according to the complaint.

Turkheimer says he met with several managers, including Connelly, shortly therafter, and was then fired.

Turkheimer seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful termination and disability discrimination. He is represented by Adam Kleinfeldt with Ginarte O'Dwyer Gonzalez of Newark.

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