Does pharma muzzle employees?

Richard A Meyer
3 min readJun 11, 2020

QUICK READ: Throughout the country, employees are demanding a say in the way their companies do business because of social issues. Why haven’t we heard this type of corporate activism in healthcare?

Microsoft employees are demanding that the company stop doing business with the police. Facebook employees staged a one-day walkout to protest the way political posts are approved on the site. Pfizer says the price of their COVID-19 vaccine “won’t be sky high” and there is not a word from anyone?

The false narrative online is that pharma’s reputation may be coming back with the work on a COVID-19 vaccine but that’s garbage. All it takes is one story about how much drug companies are making or how someone can’t afford their medication and that goodwill is gone.

AbbVie won a patent challenge around Humira which means that patients are going to have pay more before a generic allows for a lower-cost alternative. Gilead has priced their drug for COVID-19 at $5000 which means a potential of billions in revenue for them. Where are the voices of the people who work in pharma asking for change?

Some people say that statement is naive but I know of a lot of people within the industry who are trying every day to be the change the industry needs. The problem is that pharma has made it abundantly clear that anyone who speaks up or to the media, without clearance, will be subject to termination.

Here’s a great example. One of my connections on LinkedIn told me this story. During the drug’s approval process she became aware of some data that indicated a potentially serious side effect. She tried to raise the flag but the NDA had been submitted already and any changes could mean months of delay and loss of sales. She scheduled meetings with a lot of people and finally got on the calendar of some VP’s to talk about what she had found. As a result, she received a letter of warning for “not being a team player” and later that year received a poor performance review even though everyone before that was outstanding. She wound up leaving and is filing a whistleblower complaint.

I wish I could say that this is an exception but it’s not. Not only has pharma been silent about the social issues effecting our country their system does not allow ANY employee to speak up when they feel something is wrong. Amgen was famous for firing ANYONE who dared voice their opinion as they made it clear they were a “right to work company”.

If we don’t allow employees to speak up who is going to be the conscious of our company? CEO’s who rake in tens of millions of dollars? Managers, who just want to keep collecting big compensation packages?

It all goes come down to their corporate culture. The slogans on the wall in the lobby don’t mean a damn thing unless there is transparency at all levels. I’m disappointed that pharma has been so damn quiet but I’m also disappointed at their attempt to keep their people quiet.

Originally published at on June 11, 2020.



Richard A Meyer

Marketing and Political thought leader — Writer- Audiophile