- Joined May 25, 2008
[h2]Pfizer ordered to pay up over âAIDS-likeâ virus infections[/h2]Inwhat is being hailed as a major victory for workers in the biotech andnanotech fields, a former scientist with pharmaceutical firm Pfizer hasbeen awarded $1.37 million for being fired after raising the alarm overresearchers being infected with a genetically engineered "AIDS-like"virus.
Becky McClain, a molecular biologist from Deep River,Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against Pfizer in 2007, claiming she hadbeen wrongly terminated for complaining about faulty safety equipmentthat allowed a "dangerous lentivirus" to infect her and some of hercolleagues.
The Hartford Courant describesthe virus as "similar to the one that can lead to acquired immunedeficiency syndrome, or AIDS." Health experts testified that the virushas affected the way McClain's body processes potassium, which they saycauses McClain to suffer complete paralysis as often as a dozen timesper month, the Courant reports.
McClain's lawsuit(PDF) asserted that Pfizer had interfered with her right to freespeech, and that she should have been protected from retaliation bywhistleblower legislation.
Pfizer challenged her assertion,claiming McClain only started complaining about safety problems onceher employment was terminated, the Associated Press reports. Pfizer also claimed to have investigated McClain's claims about safety violations and found them to be untrue, according to the New London Day.
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OnThursday, a jury in a US District Court in Connecticut disagreed withPfizer, granting McClain the $1.37 million, as well as punitivedamages, meaning the total amount could be much greater.
The WorkersCompensation.com Web site says the ruling is being "considered the first successful employee claim in the biotech and nanotech industry."
Workers'rights advocates are pointing to the McClain lawsuit as "evidence thatrisks caused by cutting-edge genetic manipulation have outstripped moreslowly evolving government regulation of laboratories," reports the Courant.
McClain'slawsuit says she was exposed to the experimental virus repeatedlybetween 2002 and 2004, and when she lodged complaints about it, hersupervisor said he would "falsify her future performance reviews and hetold her they would be negative, and he threatened her in an aggressivefashion following the plaintiffâs repeated complaints regarding safety.He forcibly backed the plaintiff into a wall during one encounter."
'TOO BIG TO NAIL'
A report at CNNabout a separate legal matter involving Pfizer states that theDepartment of Justice considered Pfizer to be "too big to nail" in aninvestigation of the company's illegal marketing of the painkiller drugBextra.
CNN reports that, if Pfizer had been prosecuted over thedrug, the company would have been excluded from doing business withMedicaid and Medicare. But because federal officials considered thecompany too big to be exempted from working with the government healthprograms, a dummy corporation -- Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. -- was setup, and that dummy corporation then pleaded guilty to the crime.
"P&UCIsold no drugs and had no real employees, and its creation was simply afigleaf to allow a Pfizer entity to take the rap without harming Pfizeritself," explains Jim Edwards at the Bnet business blog.
Pfizer is the world's largest drugmaker, with annual revenue around $44 billion.
Not only are they creating extremely dangerous virus that are a threat to not only the American Public but humanity as a whole with out the proper safety methods in place, they are also exempt from legal prosecution because they are "too big to nail"??
This is wrong on so many levels.