(CN) – The 2nd Circuit revived the New Jersey whistleblower claims of a former Pfizer executive who says he was fired for speaking out about the drug giant’s off-label marketing of the human growth hormone Genotropin.
Dr. Peter Rost, a former vice president for Pfizer and predecessor Pharmacia Inc., sued the companies under the False Claims Act and a New Jersey whistleblower law after his firing in 2005.
Rost is well-known for testifying in Congress about the criminal business practices of the pharmaceutical industry. His allegations led to a criminal investigation of Pfizer by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Rost also publicly supported the re-importation of drugs to lower costs.
He claimed he was fired in retaliation for speaking out about his employer’s practice of marketing Genotropin for off-label uses, including to combat aging and to boost child growth.
A federal judge dismissed Rost’s lawsuit against the two drug companies and four executives.
The Manhattan-based federal appeals court agreed that Rost had failed to prove any False Claims Act violations, but it reinstated his state-law whistleblower claims.
“The district court apparently misunderstood the scope of CEPA” — the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act — by examining whether Rost voiced his concerns to “a supervisory or public body,” the ruling states.
“In fact, CEPA protects employees who disclose information ‘to a supervisor or to a public body,'” which Rost allegedly did, the court ruled.
The 2nd Circuit reversed and remanded the state-law claims, saying “New Jersey law may recognize that [Rost] engaged in protected activity beginning in fall 2002 or spring 2003.”
Rost is the author of “The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman,” released in 2006.
He filed a similar False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Pharmacia in Massachusetts, which is still pending.