— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) May 6, 2013
In 2011 a senior communications executive at Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, contacted me about editing a manuscript, their in-house history. I made a proposal for the job, we discussed a schedule, with me suggesting that I would bill them at different junctures as the edit moved forward and as he judged each segment of my work acceptable. We also discussed beginning the process with a signing payment, a portion of my total fee, as we got underway. For a few days it looked like we would be working together. Then I got surprising news from him. I guess he’d not earlier worked with independent contractors, because he informed me now that Novartis makes no payments to freelancers sooner than 60 days from when an invoice is accepted. It seemed beyond high-handed that this multi-billion dollar corporation would feel free to simply stipulate this odious policy to outside vendors doing work for the company. I objected but he told me there would be no flexibility on this point. Because I didn’t relish the prospect of working many weeks without pay–particularly when my work would still have to be deemed satisfactory at each milestone along the way before every new 60-day period would even commence–I declined to take the assignment.
Ever since–when I see Novartis mentioned in the news, whether it’s about a patent dispute in India over the medicine Gleevec, or the ProPublica story by Theodoric Meyer I tweeted about above, with a lawsuit alleging that Novartis paid “kickbacks—cash, meals and favors to relatives” of doctors who then improperly prescribed the company’s drugs to their patients–I feel relief, satisfaction, and a small measure of pleasure, knowing that I didn’t end up doing any work for this disreputable pharmaceutical giant.