This morning, Raj Bhat entered the 10th day of a hunger strike to protest allegedly illegal and unsafe business practices, as well as wrongful treatment of pharmacists by Medco Health Solutions, the big pharmacy benefits manager, where he worked until July 2005. Prior to his dismissal, Bhat complained to Medco managers that a new policy requiring pharmacists to process at least 45 to 55 prescriptions an hour was “unreasonably high” and led to a growing number of errors that placed patients in jeopardy.
Among those who he contacted while attempting to overturn the policy was the Florida Board of Pharmacy, the US Drug Enforcement Agency and, later, Medco ceo David Snow. But his efforts, he claims, eventually cost him his job. In fact, he points out that he was fired exactly four days after the Florida agency closed its case without taking any action. And so in 2007, he filed a lawsuit, charging Medco retaliated against him, which violated the state Whistleblower statute. The case was recently dismissed, but he plans to appeal. Meanwhile, he says Medco is seeking $1 million in legal fees.
Frustrated by the turn of events, Bhat began his hunger strike to raise “public awareness of what is going on at Medco. There are health and safety issues,” he tells us. “I started this hunger strike because I want to explain what is happening. And I want national press coverage to provide some form of public documentation and create a setting where Medco officials would have to answer questions. So we have also gone to Senator Grassley,” the ranking Republican on the US Senate Finance Committee who is conducting several probes involving the pharmaceutical industry. Bhat, who is currently unemployed, also started a blog that he updates each day.