Whistle-blower lawsuit casts doubt on nicotine patch research

Wisconsin residents who want to stop smoking often rely on nicotine gum or patches to help them cope with intense tobacco cravings. Pharmaceutical companies laud the effectiveness of these products and claim that they have helped millions to overcome nicotine addiction, but a former researcher at a leading drug maker alleges that he was fired from his six-figure job after casting doubt on the veracity of these marketing claims.

The man claims in a lawsuit filed in New Jersey that he was criticized and had his annual bonus reduced before being terminated for pointing out that research into the use of nicotine replacement products may be inaccurate. He claims to have reported that the data used to compile the research in question was faulty and that nicotine patches could actually cause harm in some situations. The lawsuit claims that the man was well regarded at the company and had received numerous glowing reviews before raising these concerns.

When asked questions about the lawsuit, a representative of the pharmaceutical manufacturer involved denied that the man was let go for raising questions about the company’s products or methods. The representative also said that the reporting of wrongdoing was actively encouraged and rewarded by the company. The man’s attorney disagreed with this assessment, and she told reporters that the case is a straightforward example a powerful corporation trying to silence a critic in order to protect its profits and market share.

This case shows how lawsuits filed by whistle-blowers against their current or former employers often involve two very different accounts of the same events. Those who have witnessed wrongdoing in the workplace often feel that they have a responsibility to come forward, but fears of retaliation from their employers and worries about the glare of public scrutiny are sometimes more persuasive than civic duty. Attorneys with experience in whistle-blower cases can point out the legal protections that whistle-blowers enjoy and the serious sanctions that employers may face for retaliating against them.

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