James Wetta, a former AstraZeneca sales representative brought suit against the company in 2004, citing that the company marketed the drug Seroquel, to children prisoners and the elderly, for reasons not approved by the FDA.
Psychiatrist Stefan Kruszewski sued in 2006 claiming that the company misrepresented the risks and benefits of Seroquel.
The U.S. Justice department supported their claims and in an April 2010 settlement under the false claims act, AstraZeneca had to pay out $520 million. After years of waiting and pursuing their suits, the two men received their payments.
This is not the first time either of the men have acted as whistleblowers, nor is it the first time they have won settlements from their efforts.
The False Claims Act lets private citizens sue on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery amounts. Between 1987 and 2009 whistleblowers were rewarded with approximately $2.39 billion. This is merely 16 percent of the amount recovered due to fraudulent activities on the part of government contractors, the health industry and others.
The government rejects nearly 80 percent of the federal cases, which leaves justice up to the whistleblowers. Government participation leads to settlements almost 100 percent of the time, on the other hand when whistleblowers have to go it alone, they tend to lose about 95 percent of the time.
While the general public may be stunned by the settlement rewards for coming forward. Whistleblowers on the other hand feel as if every penny they are rewarded is justified, as they have risked friends, family, lifestyles and their careers to right the wrongs made by large corporations.
“The False Claims Act is an important tool in the arsenal for fighting and preventing fraud against the government,” stated attorney, Michael L. Baum of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, “If it were not for the FCA’s rewards and protections, whistleblowers would have little incentive to place their livelihoods at risk for the sake of alerting the government of fraudulent activities.”
Kruszewski says that despite the millions he has been rewarded, “It would have been far nicer and better for me if all of this had never happened. I don’t find it fun being a whistleblower. People have no clue—except other whistleblowers—how difficult this has been.”