Doctor Accuses Heartgard Plus Manufacturer of Drug Data Cover-up, Wrongful Termination
Kari Blaho-Owens, Ph.D., has filed a complaint against Heartgard Plus maker Merial, Ltd., for wrongful termination after the company was accused of covering up data that indicated that the heartworm drug was not as effective as advertised.
Dr. Blaho-Owens claims that she was fired after refusing to destroy a document that contained study data and other information relevant to a class action lawsuit filed against Merial in 2009. The lawsuit accuses the Heartgard Plus manufacturer of being less than 100% effective in preventing heartworms in dogs, contrary to its advertising of the product.
The doctor was fired from her position as the global head of pharmacovigilance at Merial in July 2010. In response, she has filed an employment lawsuit against the pharmaceutical manufacturer under the representation of employment attorney Christopher D. Vaughn. Mr. Vaughn is the founding member of the Vaughn Law Firm based in Decatur, Georgia.
According to the complaint filed by Dr. Blaho-Owens, Merial may have been aware of reports of the drug’s ineffectiveness since 2002. The FDA notified Merial in 2004 of numerous reports it had received of the drug’s lack of efficacy, indicating that the manufacturer’s advertising of 100% effectiveness in heartworm prevention was not accurate.
Instead of submitting a labeling correction to the FDA, the complaint asserts that Merial instead delayed changing their marketing stance for several more years. The Heartgard Plus manufacturer conducted an internal study that, according to Dr. Blaho-Owens, was designed to support Merial’s claim of 100% effectiveness and did not meet scientific standards in several ways.
The pharmaceutical company has allegedly blamed the greater number of efficacy complaints on “increases in sales, lack of compliance on the part of the owner, etc. – not product failure of the active ingredients in Heartgard products.”
The class action lawsuit against Merial, Ltd. and the lawsuit filed by Dr. Blaho-Owens are both pending. The complaint filed by the former global head of Merial, Ltd. accuses the company of wrongful termination on the basis of retaliation and violation of federal whistleblower provisions. Federal employment lawyer Christopher D. Vaughn of the Vaughn Law Firm is seeking damages on Dr. Blaho-Owens’ behalf.