Interview with Alfredo Pequito, former employee of Bayer Portugal
In 1997 Alfredo Pequito informed the public that Bayer and other pharmaceutical companies gave gifts to hundreds of medical doctors in Portugal to influence their prescription behaviour. The General Health Inspection Department in Portugal confirmed these accusations.
Bayer also conducted unethical medical tests in Portugal, several test subjects died. Until today Bayer has not been charged with these crimes.
Question: Mr Pequito, during what time did you work for Bayer and what was your assignment there?
Answer: Before answering all of your questions, allow me to express my deep gratitude to the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, as well as to all their distinguished members, for the interest shown in this case known as “Bayergate, an interest that should be shown and declared openly also by the Portuguese Health and Judicial Authorities. Unfortunately to the Portuguese citizens, this did not happen and continues so, it seems, “ad eternum.
I joined Bayer on the 2nd of December 1992, as representative for the Évora and Portalegre (Alentejo Region) districts, a position that I had already held with Schering-Plough and Sanofi (here exclusively in the hospital area). Therefore it was my duty to promote, ethically and honestly, Bayer products in these two districts of Portugal, but I can now affirm that this was not the real intention of Bayer. On the 2nd of February 1996 (Friday, late afternoon) and after a normal and routine meeting I was summoned, unexpectedly, to present myself to the Personnel Department of the company, where there was already the Marketing Department Director, and was immediately informed of the following: “You do not buy medical doctors, you do not accept this plan of action, consequently you do not serve the company. Bayer had at their disposal, as it continues to do nowadays, large amounts of money that were used as deposits at travel agencies, in information material, gold pens and other expensive items. I would like to call your attention to the fact that the travel agencies acted as a kind of banking system, that is, under the coverage of any eventual scientific event, the amount agreed with the doctor/s was deposited there, and afterwards they (doctors) could use it or draw back the moneys. Such a practice is, according to my judgement and conscience, pure and harsh corruption. I can say, at least in peace with my conscience, that I was never part of such a scheme.
Q - What was the reaction to your revelations? Does the "bribing" of medical doctors in Portugal continue? Did you get support from the Portuguese government or from medical associations?
A - The first reactions were of great enthusiasm and I thought, together with countless other people, that these revelations would induce some corresponding action (by the government or else), and put some order back into this sector of the society, which had been openly commented upon but never dared to be denounced, in black and white, as I did, open face.
Some journalists investigated, within their limitations, but did not dare to go forward. Not even the Government showed any particular interest. In reality I had several meetings with the Health Minister, different political parties received me in audience, but the results were zero, nil.
The Inspecção Geral de Saude (IGS - General Health Inspection) has very limited investigation powers, and acts over the state personnel only. As a consequence of their investigation produced a very large documentation on this case, that was in fact directed to the General Public Attorney, who commands the criminal investigation through the Judicial Police (PJ), if he wants. In this case I was summoned to be heard in declarations ONCE.
This Attorney did not care to continue the case. He possibly did not wish to continue this task or possibly avoided the inconvenience of being involved in such a mess, especially a case of corruption "touching" important people.
My denunciations (the reasons are unknown) never brought to existence a new process and was condemned, time passing by, to a possibly desired failure (process 8484/95 was already 2 years old). The processes that were presented to court were not properly investigated by the MP (Public Accusation) and to my surprise (and others) the witnesses were only Bayer's employees (the corrupters). The result of these few trials was some money penalties.
Then, in 1999, the pharmaceutical industry was "confronted" with an amnesty produced by the then President of the Republic. The Minister of Justice, who is curiously a partner in the law company that defended and still defends Bayer, that is "Jardim, Sampaio, Caldas e Assoc", produced such proposal. It is a rare coincidence!
With such an amnesty the pharmaceutical industry felt naturally and without doubt immune and unpunishable, even more, a kind of incentive to continue to pursue their actions in this market.
Q - Did the pharmaceutical companies find new ways to influence the decisions of medical doctors?
A - After this amnesty, corruption grew exponentially. Now there is even more money involved, using the above-mentioned methods, including direct cash payments or gifts of a very high price, depending on the service returned. I should mention that the General Health Inspection Department has no power at all to investigate what happens in the private sector, and it is not a juridical department. Travel agencies, pharmacies, private hospitals and so on are beyond their "investigative" actions.
The representatives of the different laboratories are also not inspected.
But in spite of the course of this case, I still think it is an imperative duty of any citizen to act in favour of their fellow men, especially in a sector so sensitive as public health, that directly or indirectly affects every person and above all those in greater need. Let me say that this situation does not dignify any so-called democratic state. Would anybody dare to say that there do not exist cases of morbidity, or even mortality due to excess of pharmaceutical drugs?
Q – What about medical tests? Which rules were violated during Bayers experiments? Would you call Portugal a European “back yard where Bayer and other pharmaceutical companies carry out dangerous tests?
A – All the rules imposed to perform a medical test are not allegedly fulfilled, because the inspections supposed to be part of the tests and made by the qualified authorities are not carried out and on account of those facts I presented to the Attorney General, Dr Pinto Monteiro, on the 3rd of December 2007, a report of Bayers tests so that he can order a real investigation.
With the above-mentioned amnesty served on a “silver platter, the pharmaceutical industry in general, and especially Bayer, found in Portugal the “lost paradise to alleged practice of everything they want. A good example of what I say is a clinical test carried out on children using the antibiotic Ciproxin. The qualified authorities were not duly informed; there is no information about the number of children involved in such; and one of the investigators is a psychiatrist, who is director of the medical department of Bayer. Another good example was given by Jorn Oldigs (director in Bayer´s pharmaceutical department) who, in a court of law declared that he had given 250.00 to doctors for a test with Nimotop, but he confessed that he did not know how many doctors were involved, that he did not know how many elderly people were involved in this test and even he did not know the rules. This statement was made, I repeat, in court and it is taped.
It can be unbelievable or even ridicule, but there is a hospital in Coimbra that accepts “clinical marketing tests. Do you know anything similar in the world?
Q – You accuse Bayer of conducting tests with dangerous antibiotics on children and young people. Do you have documents, which prove this? What were the hazards for the test subjects? Were the parents informed? When and in which countries did these experiments take place and who approved them?
A – All my affirmations are supported by documents. Nobody knows precisely the various effects that may happen because, above all, the clinical tests are secret material and excluded from any eventual public consultation, and besides this in Portugal the results of such tests remain in the hands of the promoting laboratory. They, if I may use the expression, are "national secrets".
I have serious doubts that the authorities are properly informed, which is indifferent because these authorities consider themselves only as notified entities.
It is impossible to say who approved them. On the other hand the clinical tests in Portugal can be legalized and approved a posteriori.
In other countries there are claims, due to the side effects with the use of Lipobay. Portugal is certainly the only exception, because there is not one single claim. People in general are afraid and also do not trust the justice system.
Q – You also presented documents on tests with the heart medication Ecadotril. The Portuguese newspaper Expresso reports that eight of the 279 test persons died during or after the tests. What was the background of this study and when and were did it take place? Where did the deaths occur? Did these cases go to court?
A – There is no investigation of the case in spite of the fact there were deaths involved. This, unfortunately, is a true and real example of the lack of respect for the most basic of human rights, namely the right to live.
Q – Why were the investigations delayed so long? Did Bayer get political or judicial protection?
A – There is a firm conviction that Bayer is untouchable, because it represents German power. Bayer is a flagship of such power.
Anything which is bad for Germany is bad for the EU and is therefore bad for Portugal. A similar sentence was stated in court and is taped, repeating what was said by a member of the Portuguese Government to a lawyer. No comments.
It is not a coincidence but the law firm chosen by Bayer is, as previously mentioned, “Jardim, Sampaio, Caldas e Assoc. These men were, at the time of the allegations, The President of the Republic, The Minister of Justice and The Minister of Defence. Let me answer your question with a simple question: Is this a coincidence and is there an alleged political cover up? These are facts, not theory.
The investigations were not delayed. The real fact is that they were not made at all. However, with the new Attorney General, Dr. Pinto Monteiro, I hope that he fulfils the promise made to me, that is, to start without any more delays the investigation of this case. I assured to this gentleman that I would not sue the Portuguese State in the corresponding European Juridical Institutions.
Q – Bayer sued you for defamation. What was the outcome of this case? What happened when you presented your evidence?
A – Bayer sued me twice. During the first case, I had access to the data from the 11 clinical tests. The court was not at all interested in these cases, devalued the evidence of my witnesses, and valued all the evidence from Bayer employees, even those who joined the company years after the facts happened, and without any objective knowledge of them.
Second time: different judge. It was a lady who suggested to Bayer to withdraw the complaint before the session started. I repeat: no comments.
Those complaints were made in 1999. They came to session in court in 2007. Is this justice?
Q - Did anyone from Bayer support you after 1997 confidentially? Do you still get information from inside the company?
A – Since 1997 all employees of Bayer received clear orders not to contact me, in any form or way, but this did not apply only to Bayers dependents; it was extended to every employee connected with the pharmaceutical industry in Portugal, which I presume was determined by the Apifarma, the Pharmaceutical Industry Association. I was infected with a special plague! However I was very lucky to keep 2 or 3 old colleagues, with character and strong personality, who did not observe these absurd orders and at least one of them continued to have a more or less normal relationship with me, in spite of it having to be clandestine. I would like to point out that Bayer, on its way, followed the movements of all of those who could be suspected of non-compliance with those instructions. Therefore, and sometimes in a way similar to a “Hollywoodmovie, I always got the information needed, especially inside Bayer as well as in the industry.
Q – Did the situation change after your meeting with the Portuguese Attorney General in December 2007?
A – Unfortunately and up to now, nothing with substance, happened. However, the Attorney General is obliged by law to act, since the principle of non-action, which supported the lack of previous investigation, does not exist in the Portuguese judicial ordination. As far as I know now, it seems that there was a scandalous attempt “to sweep the investigation under the carpet, and those facts were finally disclosed and came to my knowledge thanks to the Bayer defamation processes against me. I have seen, and was also was part of , the activity and performance of the Public Magistrates (State Accusation), as a result of the pressure from various sectors and interests that may project visibility and notoriety to those Magistrates.
I want to keep some trust and hope on this new Attorney General!
I went to the meeting at the Attorney General headquarters alone, because I had lost my trust in my previous lawyer, Garcia Pereira. Everybody, within my inner space and outsiders, warned me about the actions and activities of this gentleman, who used my case to promote himself and neglected my own interests. It is easily clear to me now that it is much more productive to be received in a meeting alone, where I explained, in my own way, the facts, than to have a debate or conference between two lawyers, discussing a judicial process.
My lawyer, since February 2008, is Dr. Santos de Oliveira.
Q – There were several attempts on your life. Were these investigated properly? Are there any clues on the wirepullers?
A – No. Even the authorities, in public, try to devalue, in some way, all those situations - exactly the opposite they did in private.
I have no doubt that those people are extremely dangerous.
Since the denouncements I was put in serious danger. At the present time I have no protection at all. The Portuguese State is and will be responsible for anything that may happen to me. As far as this subject is concerned, I would prefer not to comment.
Q – What can be done now to support your case and to change the behaviour of the pharmaceutical industry?
A – Intense international pressure.
Questions by the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, Germany.