By John W. Whitehead
When Allen Jones was appointed lead investigator in July 2002 in a case concerning off-the-books payments from pharmaceutical companies, he had no idea that his discoveries would cost him his career and propel him to the core of President George W. Bush’s national drug policies. An investigator for the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Jones’ findings in the case showed that the drug company Janssen had paid honorariums to key state officials who held significant influence over the prescriptions issued for state institutions such as prisons and mental health hospitals. Although the accounts receiving these payments were marked for “educational grants,” funds were being channeled to state employees who developed guidelines recommending new, more expensive drugs rather than older, cheaper drugs with safe, proven effects. These companies were influencing officials with trips, perks and lavish travel accommodations as a means of inducing the officials to endorse their products. Jones discovered that one of the new drugs being recommended, Risperdal, has been shown to have potentially lethal side effects such as ketoacidosis, coma and possibly death.
After initially revealing his discoveries to OIG managers, Jones was taken off the case but told that he could pursue it on his own. In the words of the OIG supervisor who took Jones off the case and participated in threatening him, “Drug companies write checks to politicians… on both sides of the aisle.” When Jones went public with his findings, he was escorted out of his workplace and told not to reappear on OIG property. Jones then filed a suit against his supervisors, claiming that OIG’s policy of barring employees from speaking to the press is unconstitutional. Jones also claims that he is being harassed by his superiors and Pennsylvania governmental institutions in order to “cover up, discourage, or limit any investigations or oversight into the corrupt practices of drug companies and the corrupt public officials who have acted with them.” Jones’ attorney, John Bailey, has called the case “a critical test of the right to a free press.” Bailey said, “If they shut the employee up and they have all the documents locked up in a drawer, there is no free press.” …