Several weeks ago I received an email from John Virapen who had this to say:
My name is John Virapen. I am now retired, after working more than 30 years in the pharma industry internationally. I have worked at executive level for some major companies such as Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk.
My career started in Sweden where I was Managing Director for Eli Lilly Sweden AB. I now live in Germany. Last year I published a fictional novel (“Side Effects: Death”; written in German) about corruption in the pharma industry, which created some debate.
I was then urged by the public to tell the true story. I have now written this book
as my memoirs primarily outlining the criminal activities I was involved in during my active years.
The Big Fish here is Eli Lilly.
A few months ago I was invited by Andy Vickery, a prominent US attorney, as a fact witness in an ongoing case regarding Prozac. I happen to have “damning evidence” exposing Eli Lilly bribing the regulatory board in Sweden to attain marketing approval for Prozac.
I thought: whistleblower, Sweden — Peter Rost! No, John Virapen, who wrote his book under the pseudonym of John Rengen, is NOT Peter Rost. But I figured Peter would know who this guy was, but when I asked Peter, he had no clue.
Recently, I have done some searching on the Internet about Virapen and Andy Vickery and have come up with a few more pieces of the puzzle. First, here’s Virapen’s video on YouTube:
I learned that Virapen tried to sue Eli Lilly for wrongful dismissal based on his race:
September 22, 1995 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS No. 95-1407 JOHN VIRAPEN, ET AL. v ELI LILLY, S.A., ETC., ET AL.
This appeal stems from a suit alleging Per Curiam employment discrimination in violation of federal statutes and local law. The principal plaintiff, John Virapen, who was born in British Guyana and is of Indian descent, alleges that his employer, Eli Lilly S.A., a pharmaceutical firm, discharged him from an executive position because of his skin color, race, and national origin. The district court conducted a four-day bench trial concerning Virapen’s allegations. The court thereafter wrote a meticulously reasoned opinion in which it concluded that Virapen had failed to prove his case.
Recall that dozens of current and former workers at Eli Lilly and Co. are stepping forward to accuse the Indianapolis drug maker of racial discrimination, adding heft to an ongoing lawsuit that paints the company as hostile to black employees (see “Lily-White Lilly. Homophobic and Sexist Too?“).
Virapen may also have something in common with Tom Cruise: a connection with Scientology’s Commission for violations of human rights against psychiatry (see this entry in Wikipedia). I can’t say that Virapen is a shill for Scientology, but he definitely thinks the side effects of Prozac are deadly.
Trial lawyer Andy Vickery, for whom Virapen may be employed as an expert witness, has been described as “Eli Lilly and Co.’s legal nightmare: an outspoken, Yale-educated Texas trial lawyer . . . who has brought new focus and heightened publicity to Prozac litigation.” (Jeff Swiatek, Indianapolis Star; 4/24/2000).
Recently, Virapen called to tell me that the story about his “damning evidence” against Lilly and the bribery of Swedish regulators “broke” in the Swedish press on page one of a major newspaper there.
With all this litigation involving Lilly and Prozac, I was amused to find out that Lilly is sponsoring a program to help physicians deal with their own litigation problems (see this post to The Carlat Psyhiatry Blog).
There’s also a connection here with the American Psychological Association (APA), which received “at least $1.3 million in 2007 (so far) for industry-supported symposia and fellowships” (see “From Embarrassment to Scandal: Lilly + APA + The Psychiatrist’s Program + Lots and Lots of Money“). Funny that the APA recently published a report that recommended that its 148,000 members “turn their nose up at pharma funds; limit the role industry plays at professional conferences, meetings and CME sessions; and adopt strict guidelines on conflict-of-interest disclosure” (see “APA Report Rips Pharma a New One!“).
I wasn’t sure what to do about John Virapen, who I thought was a bit outside the box with the claims he was making. But after several follow-up phone calls from him plus all of the above smoke that may reveal some fire in this story, I decided to invite him as a guest on my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast show on 20 December 2007:
A Former Lilly Insider Blows the Whistle on Criminal Activity in Sweden
A conversation with John Virapen, an ex-Eli-Lilly-executive and author of the book “Side Effect: Death” (published in Sweden and Germany)…More info here...
Airs live, Thursday, 20 December 2007, 10 AM Eastern US time
Personal communication from John Virapen:
I cant seem to get my comments posted the normal way on your blog, but here they are, perhaps you can post them for me.
1. Anonymous says he worked for lilly 5 years but I wonder if its Eli Lilly he means. Bad judgement calls seem to be routine with several major pharma companies. Before making assumptions why dont you contact the Swedish Daily news ( Dagens Nyheter) who can verify my story. I can assure I am not a disgruntled employee. I am just publishing my memoirs of 35 years working in the international pharma industry. By the way the book is a fact book. I am not hiding behind fiction.
2. I was not employed by Att. Vickery to testify, I offered freely at no charge what so ever.
3. I am in no way connected to scientology or any other organisation for that matter.
4. Finally to those of you who suggest that I am pursuing financial gain please tell me how to do it. You might be aware that it does cost to write and publish a book. However, if this is a concern then I suggest, someone sponser the book and then donate the proceeds to victims who suffered at the hands of the pharma industry.
You can contact me at virapen@gmail .com
see you thursday.