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Report: Critic isolated at Pfizer
Report: Pfizer VP who criticized U.S. drug prices is in virtual corporate exile but still on job.
June 8, 2005: 7:38 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A critic of the drug industry's pricing policy is facing virtual corporate exile at Pfizer, according to a published report.

Peter Rost, a vice president for marketing at Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, appeared on the CBS show "60 Minutes" Sunday to criticize U.S. drug prices compared with prices in Canada and countries in Europe.

The New York Times said that his corporate e-mail and cell phone accounts were shut off on Monday.

"This is like being in some kind of corporate twilight zone," Rost told the paper Tuesday. "I guess everybody's waiting for me to get fired."

Pfizer spokesman Paul Fitzgerald told the paper that the e-mail and cell phone service were not supposed to be shut off and by Tuesday afternoon Rost reported the e-mail was working again. But that is not the only example of his isolation within the company.

The paper said that even before his appearance on "60 Minutes," Rost had been a public critic of pricing policy, holding a news conference on the subject last year with members of Congress writing opinion pieces for a number of newspapers.

In response to those moves, the employees who had formerly reported to Rost were reassigned, his supervisors stopped returning his calls and his office was moved to one near Pfizer's security department. Rost had told the paper he did not even know who his current supervisor is supposed to be.

"Now I'm going to check if I can actually get in and get the name of my supervisor," he wrote in an e-mail message to the paper on Tuesday once his corporate e-mail was restored. "That should be fun."

Pfizer is in a difficult position in how it deals with Rost, according to management consultants who talked to the paper. His comments are not in Pfizer's interests, John Putzier, the president of FirStep, a human resources consulting firm based in Prospect, Pa., told the paper. As a result, it may be legal for Pfizer to fire him, Putzier said. But a firing might make Pfizer appear vindictive or give Rost and his position more publicity, Putzier said.

There could also be legal protections for Rost. In its most recent annual report, Pfizer disclosed that in late 2003 the Justice Department had opened an investigation into its marketing of genotropin, the growth hormone Rost was responsible for selling at Pharmacia & Upjohn when it was purchased by Pfizer in 2003.

Rost told the Times he could not confirm or deny whether he was involved in that investigation. But federal laws shielding whistle-blowers from retaliation could protect his job if he is cooperating, the paper reported.

Fitzgerald denied Pfizer had changed Rost's responsibilities since he joined Pfizer.

Rost told the paper he did not enjoy being unable to work productively, but that he could not quit without another job to replace his current annual compensation of more than $600,000.

"I have a family to support. There haven't been that many job offers coming through lately," he said.

For more on allegations of problems of blindness by patients using Pfizer's drug Viagra, click here.  Top of page

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