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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14795

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Silverman E.
Silence! Apotex, A Doctor And Freedom Of Speech
Pharmalot 2008 Dec 12

Full text:

Four years after an agreement supposedly ended a decade-long dispute between a Toronto physician Nancy Olivieri and Apotex, which accused her of badmouthing one of its drug, a new lawsuit has been filed by the drugmaker – and the Canadian Association of University Teachers is now accusing Apotex of trying to muzzle academic freedom.
The CAUT says Apotex is trying to silence Olivieri, because its lawsuit, which was filed last month, lists a very broad range of examples in which the drugmaker claims the professor breached their 2004 agreement “not to disparate each other,” according to The Globe and Mail. The lawsuit cites such alleged infractions as attending conferences, chairing panels and having an entry in Wikipedia.”
“What is so worrisome is that Apotex seems to be trying to define disparagement so broadly,” Jim Turk, CAUT’s executive director, tells the paper. “In Dr. Olivieri’s case, it means not only can she not talk about the factual things that happened to her, she can’t participate in conferences on academic freedom where there is no reference to her case at all. To be threatened with serious legal action in this way essentially means the only option is to be silent” (Here is the Apotex lawsuit, the claims against Olivieri, the CAUT statement and a statement from the Canadian Health Coalition).
The dispute goes back to the mid-1990s, when Olivieri participated in studies on deferiprone, which is also known as Ferriprox and is used to treat a rare blood disorder. She expressed concerns that “other experts in the field (have told Apotex) were unfounded,” according to the recently filed lawsuit. An Apotex lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, the paper adds.
The lawsuit says Olivieri began a media campaign to cast herself as “the whistleblower hero in a saga against an evil drug company,” in order to gain public sympathy. In 2000, she began a defamation action against Apotex and others, and the drugmaker launched a countersuit, all of which were addressed in the 2004 settlement, the paper writes.
The new lawsuit argues Olivieri has since been involved in a list of speaking engagements and publications in which she “either directly disparaged Apotex and/or deferiprone or acquiesced or consented to the disparagement,” according to the Globe and Mail, adding that the drugmaker asks for $500,000 in damages and none of the charges have been proved in court.
The suit lists 35 examples of what it describes as breaches to the settlement, including an entry in Wikipedia that describes her “protracted struggle” with Apotex and a website posting that promotes a movie script in development on the story, the paper writes.
The new action comes at the same time as Olivieri continues to work through the courts to have the terms of the 2004 settlement enforced, the paper continues. Last week, Justice George Strathy of the Ontario Superior Court ordered Apotex to perform all the terms of the settlement, including a $800,000 payment to the doctor, a sum that until last week was not public.
“There is a disagreement about what is disparaging and that will presumably have to be decided in this new action,” Paul Mitchell, Olivieri’s lawyer, tells the paper.


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