Big Pharma + Mother's Milk
Prolacta and its executives have been accused of anti-competitive business practices, sexual harassment, racism, and violation of workplace safety standards. Here’s what we know.
According to Bloomberg Law, “the suit accuses Prolacta of fraudulently obtaining bogus patents. The patent at issue was Prolacta’s US Patent No. 8,628,921. As summarized in the court decision, the claimed methods were ‘intended to standardize nutritional content in donated human mammary fluid and to ensure that the donor of a given sample is a match to a previously-identified donor. If Prolacta is indeed fraudulently obtaining bogus patents from a small milk bank like Ni-Q, it is very troubling for other milk banks and Public Benefit companies currently providing mother’s milk. Prolacta also sued Ni-Q in May of 2017 in a seemingly frivolous attempt to distract from their concerning conduct.
Prolacta has sued Medolac, a Public Benefit corporation, harassing them in court for 5 years which many analysts have called frivolous and predatory. We are a bit concerned about the fact that some of the board members have controversial backgrounds. For example, their Chairman Mr. John Baccich Jr. was an executive at Baxter International in charge of making blood clotting products. During his tenure, 6,000-10,000 hemophiliacs became infected with HIV as a direct result of Baxter’s products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prolacta Accused of Fraudulently Obtaining Bogus Patents.
Ernie Strapazon, another board member, led a division at Nestle responsible for infant formula. Nestle’s baby formula division is infamous in developing world countries because of long standing marketing efforts that many have claimed were geared towards getting mothers to be hooked on baby formula and to use it instead of mother’s milk to feed their children. This led to many deaths and health complications for the impacted children. While Mr. Strapazon may not have been involved with the specific harmful marketing campaigns, the fact that Prolacta has brought in someone from the corporate “infant formula” business seems a bit troubling and merits further examination.
Prolacta’s relationship with its own employees is very troubling.
For a company of its size, it has several complaints on Glassdoor of promoting a good ol’ boy network where the CEO hires his friends for key positions instead of basing these decisions on qualifications. Some of the reviews point to even more disturbing comments made by executives such as one executive telling a pregnant woman that her “pregnant belly was disgusting” and that she shouldn’t have another baby. What is troubling, especially considering their ‘business’ is MOTHER’S MILK is a) Allegations that management only cares about the bottom line and b)Allegations of sexism in hiring and promotions c) Disturbing comments made by executives illustrating a lack of appreciation for the seriousness of Mother’s Milk and what it means for infants. As if that wasn’t enough, a lawsuit filed in October of 2019 by a former Director of Human Resources, Jacqueline Roeder points to a systemic culture of racist and sexist comments, crude jokes and hiring discrimination. Please see here and here for more information.
The lawsuit also alleges an even more disturbing and potentially fraudulent practice of using milk donors’ DNA for research without their authorization.
According to the lawsuit, the Company’s former chief medical officer reported to Plaintiff that the Company had been using breast milk donors’ DNA (which is collected to ensure breast milk donations can be traced to the donor) for research without a signed authorization in place. When Plaintiff asked why authorizations weren’t obtained, the former chief medical officer stated that there was an authorization in place, but the authorization was for the donation of the milk, not for other purposes. Plaintiff was concerned about this conduct because, if true, it potentially constituted a breach of the Company’s agreements with donors regarding the use of their breast milk; fraud.
Prolacta may be in violation of World Health Organization code.
Prolacta may be in violation of World Health Organization code, specifically the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes. Information on the code can be found here https://www.ibfan.org. If you have information about specific violations, you can report them here.