In her debut, Driscoll-O’Neill documents the long, exasperating experience of exposing a pharmaceutical company’s greed-driven illegal activities.
In 1996, the author became a representative for pharmaceutical company Serono, which developed a drug, Serostim, to treat “wasting,” a symptom of AIDS in which a patient’s overall musculature, strength and virility decline. According to Driscoll-O’Neill, the company gave tacit approval to some shady backroom dealings to boost sales, including offering money and incentives to doctors who agreed to prescribe their drug. One scheme required the doctor to prescribe 30 regimens of the drug, at a cost of $20,000 to $30,000 for a three-month supply; in return, the doctor would be handsomely rewarded with new medical equipment. The author describes several of her own life’s trials and tribulations—including a difficult childhood, the loss of her business, being passed over for promotion, and losing bonuses and eventually her job—and readers will likely admire her ability to overcome adversity. Interestingly, she had been a whistle-blower once before (against Blue Cross), but she received no compensation because she hadn’t been the first to file a suit. She didn’t make that same mistake again and eventually won a lawsuit against Serono, resulting in a substantial settlement payment. This financial gain hangs over the story at times, as if the book were trying to justify the award. For example, Driscoll-O’Neill writes about how she used some of the cash to set up a non-profit, One Life at a Time, to help laid-off workers find jobs. In the end, it’s unclear if the lawsuit had any effect in curbing the corporate greed and corruption that prompted it. That said, the author delivers an intriguing story of her tireless fight against the pharmaceutical colossus.
An engaging memoir by a tenacious whistle-blower.