Posted by Amanda Chapel
Let me preface this some. Before the headline disappoints, it’s not to be read literally. I imagine some inane knee-jerk PR blogster reacting instantly that a renegade with a nuke is more than just a “perception problem.” A-Duh! No, I am talking figuratively. This is about someone who knows too much; has the skills to communicate; has the savvy as to how to best approach a market; and most of all has the technology to tell the world.
Here, how's this for a little pre-publicity: New York Post, “A Drug company executive is about to blow the lid off the pharmaceutical industry. [He] is working on a book that will disclose ‘a number of mind-numbing industry practices,’ we’re told, revealing ‘everything from sex in the corner office to private investigators spying on employees, company phone surveillance, FBI investigations and financial shenanigans resulting in million-dollar payouts.”
The Post quote was/is about a new book - out today actually - by the infamous Dr. Peter Rost, i.e. The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman. Rost is sinner turned saint. He is a former Marketing Vice President for the drug company Pfizer and now a very LOUD public advocate.
It all started about ten years ago. Pharmacia, currently a subsidiary of Pfizer, was looking to market its drug Genotropin, a synthetic human growth hormone. Note: the drug is FDA approved to treat a limited range of hormonal anomalies. However, Pharmacia marketed the drug to spur growth in short children and as an anti-aging drug for adults looking for the fountain of youth! Genius. Sales for Genotropin spiked geometrically. Unfortunately, the FDA never approved the drug for that, and that’s illegal.
If it were only that simple. Pharmacia’s marketing scheme was pretty elaborate. It included: direct payments to doctors; all-expense paid junkets for doctors; financial incentives to distributors: and phony consultant contracts to funnel payments for the off-label promotion. As a result, Genotropin was a total cash cow.
Fact is, in this case off-label marketing is a crime. According to the Controlled Substances Act, “whoever knowingly distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute, human growth hormone for any use in humans other than the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition, where such use has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ... and pursuant to the order of a physician, is guilty of an offense punishable by not more than 5 years in prison.”
Well, there's that.
But Rost turned the whole thing into a “cause celeb.” His David-and-Goliath-like battle has truly taken on biblical proportions. He’s testified before the U.S. Senate, as well as many state congresses and conducted numerous press conferences with U.S. Senators, Members of U.S. Congress, and State Governors. He’s also garnered broad media coverage, appearing on “60 Minutes,” and in numerous newspaper articles, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
And now he’s gunning for a Best Seller. From the promotional materials:
I am fairly certain that Rich Bagger -- who heads Pfizer’s Worldwide Public Affairs and Policy and oversees government relations, communications, and media -- is a little bummed today.
Companies, like people, misbehave, that’s a given. As we speak, there is a new Enron brewing. That’s certain. That’s human nature. Malfeasance is the handmaiden of money.
But what makes for a whistleblower? I've got a theory. It’s loosely anthropological.
Back in the dawn of our ancestry, the young turk(s) would challenge the silver backs who would regularly kick their ass. It is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring that the strongest genes propagate. However, in the spirit of total quality management and continuous improvement, every so often, a stronger young turk prevails.
Anyway, Nature’s drama doesn’t end there. Besides her wanting to pass on genes that strengthen a tribe, she also wants the young turks to spread their silvery little swimmers throughout the countryside. As such, those near-death beaten adolescents actually get a second chance. Most die but some actually become stronger and self-sufficient enough to start their own tribes elsewhere.
Interesting mechanism but today not it’s no longer functional. In an increasingly smaller world, the young turk (or "turkette") hasn’t far to go. As such, his/her second chance is usually at the tribes expense. Today, there are all too numerous examples where an individual goes off the reservation only to return to reconcile... armed to the teeth. The phrase, "Respect me or fear me,” comes to mind.
A GROWING THREAT TO ORGANIZATIONS
Hello! Okay, this is kind of a given. But for this exorcise, let’s add these up: increased productivity (less people required resulting in more socially disenfranchised); greater distance between haves and have nots; increased access to information; and increased ability to organize. Yikes! To quote Jeff Jarvis, “behind me are 6 million people with pitchforks and torches ready to storm castle Dell.”
Yep. And there’s been a huge increase in whistleblowers. According to latest figures from The Office of Special Counsel, charged with reviewing reports by federal employees of official misconduct and then overseeing investigation of credible charges, the number of whistleblower reports has nearly doubled since the 2001 fiscal year, going from 380 cases to a reported 535 cases (FY 2003).
Now add an increased access to powerful technology. Last March, Richard Edelman, the president of the world’s largest independent PR firm that bears his name, described the situation clearly. He said, "Today, if we want to get a message into the public's conversation globally, we just make a post on a blog. [The media is] not God anymore."
Poor Rich Bagger.