Meet the salesperson who blew the whistle on Amgen

amgen.jpgShe's Jill Osiecki, a longtime Amgen employee who wore a recording device under her clothes during a 2005 sales meeting in which a manager quipped, "I hope no one is taping this." The manager then boasted of how she had given a $10,000 grant to a doctor who agreed to push for Medicare reimbursement to cover an unapproved use of the Amgen drug Aranesp. The wrongdoing was finally exposed, and this week the Thousand Oaks-based biotech company agreed to pay $150 million in criminal penalties after pleading guilty. Amgen will be shelling out an additional $612 million to settle other lawsuits. This is a complicated case, and it's gotten lost in the shuffle of this week's big news out of Connecticut and Washington. But it represents a massive breach of corporate ethics. Even the company admits as much: "Amgen acknowledges that mistakes were made, and we did not live up to our standards," said Cynthia Patton, the company's chief compliance officer. From the NYT:

Ms. Osiecki worked as a sales representative for Merck for nine years before joining Amgen in 1990, soon after the biotechnology company won regulatory approval for its first product. The company, based outside Los Angeles, had "good science, good products, strong ethics," Ms. Osiecki said in an interview. But, she said, the corporate culture changed starting around 2000. That was when new management came in and Aranesp was approved, setting up a fierce marketing battle with Johnson & Johnson and its rival anemia drug, Procrit. "It was more important to make your numbers than to follow the rules," said Ms. Osiecki, who was based in Milwaukee and sold Aranesp. In August 2004, with her concerns mounting, Ms. Osiecki called the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services and left a message. Within days, she was called back, and she went to see an agent, who persuaded her to secretly record meetings.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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