From Novartis to Not Breathing: Justice in a Jar


I’ve become interested in Novartis. It has to do with the off-label marketing of Trileptal, an epilepsy drug, for which they were fined a princely $423,000,000 in 2010. They were busted, and to avoid being treated like lesser criminals, they agreed to fork over some cash. $423M is a lot of money, but none of it went to the victims who took drugs that either failed to make them better, or actively made them worse. Life-wrecking and even death were possibilities, but the victims don’t figure into the story. In a sense, princely sums don’t either. 

Novartis is a very wealthy company.  They are second only to industry leader Johnson and Toxin in market capitalization, so that princely $423M, to them, is not a Prince Charles kind of princely. To get a sense of its impact on their well-being, consider that the penalty was .0017 of the company’s market capitalization. In human terms at reality-scale, someone worth half a million dollars, penalized to the tune of .0017, would owe $850. If they had $10,000, that figure would be $17. Is there anything a $17 penalty deters?

Someone prescribed Trileptal for relief from bipolar symptoms might have gotten worse. Enhanced mania? It can destroy in a day that which takes a lifetime to create. The loss would be, 100%, not .0017: job, reputation, and family. That person saw nothing from the settlement, but then again, Novartis hardly noticed paying it.

I had downloaded, at some point, a portion of the transcript of a gender-discrimination trial covering the testimony of an ambitious and dedicated sales rep who was raped by a Dr. Colon, who was brought to a Novartis meet-and-greet by Dr. Dan McBath, a Novartis asset who had recently attempted to seduce her at another Novartis jaw-wag. That is, he made an overture during a three-way conversation with the rep and her boss. Here, read a bit of the transcript…


A class act. This image links to the 260-page transcript, which is not the entire court proceedings.

I took a side-trip over to ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs to see if the nasty hog is still a pharmawhore. His name appears in a list of two Drs. McBath. Clicking it brought up a “nothing to see here” page I had not previously encountered on the site. Hmm. His data were available on the US government’s Open Data site. A modest showing there: $600 and change in bite-sized servings for 2013, and indulgences at the same rate for the first seven months of 2014.

dobieThe missing page and the missing half-year pricked up my ears. Well aware that I was heading for the proverbial lepus foramen, I searched the net for McBath’s full name, in search of a photo. A couple of blurry ones. I know what that means…it means the best-available pictures when a journalist needed pictures were enlargements of group shots handed over by an acquaintance because the family wants nothing to do with the press. I got the news stories in reverse order. He had died. Was his death newsworthy just because he had been a creep who figured in a major lawsuit 15 years ago? Oh sure. Maybe because the drug he used to prescribe and promote for a gastrointestinal ailment was eventually withdrawn because it caused heart attacks? Not hardly. It wasn’t either of those. 

He was a rape-o. A drugger/sex-assaulter with at least three unconscious patients exploited like meat for his hearty, now-dead hunger to harm. There were no consequences for the unbridled dickery that contributed to the end of the sales rep’s career at Time 1. He was more aggressive at Time 2.

Novartis hasn't been properly schooled yet either. (Click to enlarge.) 

Novartis hasn’t been properly schooled yet either. (Click to enlarge.)

Not long after Dr. Colon assaulted her, the rep came to believe that McBath had set her up for Dr. Colon’s attack. Someone told her as much, and it fit the data. It was because her keys were missing that she ended up walking with Colon, and McBath was in and out of her purse all evening, getting at the wine she had brought to the golf course to share with other guests. Means and opportunity. Motive? Vicarious rape of the rep, revenge-for-rejection indication.

Novartis didn’t have to do any math to decide whom to throw under the bus when the rep seemed not to get the concept of taking one for the team. She was eventually fired, but did prevail in a lawsuit, along with other plaintiffs, that accused Novartis of poor treatment of females at the chemical factory.

I haven’t found Dr. Colon. There are too many Drs. Colon in Florida. Colon is the unembellished last name of Christopher Columbus, after all. I haven’t looked for the rep. She deserves a shred of privacy.

My afternoon started with research on Trileptal, got into the mishandling of a sex crime perpetrated on a Novartis sales rep by the friend of a Key Opinion Leader, and ended after sunset with the KOL rendered a dead jerk. Suicide? Accident? All we know is that he took too much of his heart drug and his heart attacked him. 

Thank you for a lovely day, Novartis. You slay me.


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