I last wrote about Pfizer executive Peter Rost back in September, after he'd unburdened himself on the subject of Canadian drug reimportation. As readers will recall, his position on this issue is roughly that Canadian drug reimportation is a wonderful idea that needs to be implemented with all possible speed, which puts him rather at odds with the views of most pharmaceutical executives.
So, you're wondering, how's Rost doing these days? Today's New York Times catches up with him:
"No man is an island. But Peter Rost is getting close.
Dr. Rost, a vice president for marketing at Pfizer with a history of corporate whistle-blowing, has for the last year publicly criticized the pharmaceutical industry over the price of drugs. Along the way, Dr. Rost has become increasingly isolated at Pfizer, the world's largest drug company.
First, his employees stopped reporting to him. Then his supervisors stopped returning his calls and now he does not know whom to report to. His secretary left, he said, and he was moved to an office near Pfizer's security department at a company building in Peapack, N.J."
The article goes on to say that Rost tried to log in to his Pfizer e-mail the morning after he recently appeared on "60 Minutes", and found his access denied. If you read to the end, though, you find that by that afternoon, he was connected again, and that Pfizer claims that this is a glitch that has affected other employees.
And if you don't read carefully, you'll miss the line about how this was the first time Rost has tried to access his Pfizer e-mail in two weeks. Now, that makes the case for his isolation better than anything else in the article. Who on earth could go without their office e-mail for two weeks? As it turns out, Rost also got word out to the Newark Star-Ledger about his problem, and mentioned to them that he doesn't get in to the office much. The Associated Press seems to have received an update from him, too.
I don't doubt that Rost is being treated by Pfizer as if he were giving off neutrons. Anyone who makes statements like he has, in any industry, is going to get the same, if they're not pitched out onto the street first. Rost has escaped that fate, apparently, because Pfizer's marketing of the growth hormone genotropin is under investigation, and Rost was in charge of that at Pharmacia when Pfizer took over. He's likely to be protected under whistle-blower law, and firing him would be a public relations problem for Pfizer under any circumstances. So, they can mostly hope that he leaves, and try to make that an attractive option, but that's about it.
There are worse fates. If you haven't lived in the area, "Peapack, NJ" sounds like it must be surrounded by oil refineries or something. It's actually surrounded by beautifully landscaped estates. That's the horsey, expensive part of New Jersey, not the asphalty 24-hour-check-cashing part. But Rost seems to be able to afford it, since at the very end of the article we find that his annual compensation is over $600,000. Many Times readers probably found themselves wishing that their own companies disliked them as much.
Now, Rost is telling the truth as he sees it, and any information he has about misconduct has to be put in a different category than his ideas about reimportation. Given the career consequences (paycheck aside, along with his recent raise,) I have to respect him for speaking his mind, while still largely disagreeing with his opinions. But he shouldn't have expected anything much different than what he's getting from Pfizer, and calling the news organizations about it with updates seems a bit much.