By Marcus Rayner | To the Editor, NJ BIZ

New Jersey earned its reputation as the nation’s “medicine chest” many years ago. If you live here, chances are good that you know someone who is employed directly by a pharmaceutical company or indirectly through service contracts. 

As 2010 came to a close, the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey’s annual economic report revealed Jersey’s pharmaceutical industry has never been more critical to our state’s economy – or more threatened – than it is today (“Report: Pharma jobs decline, but economic impact hits all-time high,”, Dec. 22). While the industry’s total economic impact is at an all-time high of $29.25 billion, pharmaceutical jobs declined by more than 7.6 percent over the previous year. This news came the same week as NJBIZ reported that whistleblower lawsuits are rapidly becoming a favorite target for trial lawyers, who have set their sights on the pharmaceutical industry (“Whistleblower suits on rise, say N.J. lawyers,”, Dec. 22).

David S. Barmak, an attorney who is quoted in the article, described the increasing number of whistleblower lawsuits as “a huge assault on the pharmaceutical industry.” Another attorney quoted notes that as people find out about the “potential rewards,” more whistleblower suits pop up. Whistleblower suits were intended to help government entities recoup overbillings from a private company, but individuals and eager trial lawyers may be able to cash in on a share of recovered funds – making New Jersey’s premier industry an attractive target. In fact, four of New Jersey’s pharmaceutical companies settled multimillion-dollar lawsuits in December alone.

The 2010 economic report shows that especially as unemployment persists, New Jersey’s pharmaceutical companies are more important to our tax base than ever. It’s crucial that we understand what is driving them out. Let’s just say that the trial lawyers’ newest hobby doesn’t help.

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