These New Pharma Bros Are Wreaking Havoc on Prescription Drug Prices

2018\Bloomberg News. This story chronicled how a Chicago-based duo, Todd Smith and Benjamin Bove, offer a sure-fire strategy for struggling pharmaceutical companies — although some companies they’ve worked with have raised prices on drugs by as much as 4,116 percent. Crisscrossing the U.S., they quietly ply their trade helping to kick-start drug company sales. We interviewed 19 former employees from seven companies where the two have worked or consulted, all of whom requested anonymity. The story was co-written with Bloomberg News reporter Andrew Martin.

You’re Overpaying for Drugs and Your Pharmacist Can’t Tell You

2017/ Bloomberg News. This story revealed how U.S. pharmacists are barred from volunteering the fact that for many cheap, generic medicines, co-pays sometimes are more expensive than if patients simply pay out of pocket and bypass insurance. The extra money — what the industry calls a clawback — ends up with the drug-benefit companies. They can be as little as $2 a prescription and may boost profits by hundreds of millions for benefit managers. The story was based on court records —  at least 16 related lawsuits were filed at the time — as well dozens of receipts and interviews with more than a dozen pharmacists and industry consultants. Lawmakers have begun to address this issue through legislation in some states.


Mylan’s EpiPen Sales Plan: Schools Today, Everywhere Tomorrow

2017\Bloomberg News. Drugmaker Mylan NV made a fortune after it got schools to stock its EpiPen allergy shot. We reported, though, the company wants to sell EpiPens to restaurants, sports venues and potentially even Boy Scout troops — by setting up its own pharmacy to cut out middlemen and lobbying for new laws that could expand sales of its biggest product. The plan, obtained by Bloomberg News through public records requests, would bypass small-town pharmacists and chains like CVS and Walgreens and let Mylan sell the drug directly to public places. This story was co-written with Bloomberg News reporter Robert Langreth.

2016\Bloomberg News. This story reported on how the drug industry markets antibiotics to veterinarians and grew sales outside the country even as U.S. regulators tried to limit antibiotic use in American livestock. Bacteria resistant to antibiotic drugs, or superbugs, are a growing problem, particularly in hospitals, and claim an estimated 700,000 lives annually.

Deadly Neglect

2011\Chicago Tribune. This two-day series exposed decade of harmful care at a private Chicago facility where developmentally disabled children and young adults died from neglect or under circumstances that led to state citations. The series prompted new laws, action by the governor to monitor the facility and steps for it to close.  The three-part series, which was a Pulizter Finalist, was co-written with Tribune reporter Sam Roe.

On Thin Ice

Feb. 23, 2013\Chicago Tribune. This multi-story package, co-written with Tribune reporter Philip Hersh, showed US Speedskating — the Olympic national governing body — for years was plagued by a toxic mixture that included financial and organizational troubles, and bickering between athletes and coaches. The U.S. Olympic Committee engineered an overhaul less than a year before 2014 Sochi Games that included a new president. At the Olympics themselves, the much-heralded speedskaters became news for the wrong reasons en route to an historic collapse. Eventually they dumped their highly-promoted suits from Under Armour.

Understanding Brandon Marshall

June 23, 2012\Chicago Tribune. Investigative profile of the Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, was based on numerous public records and a four day at the All-Pro’s home in Florida. Marshall, who has a history of alleged violence against women and is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, invited Hopkins for an up-close look into his life.

Pros Are Often Amateurs At Running Charities

Dec. 22, 2013\Chicago Tribune. A wide-ranging analysis of 79 charities started by Chicago professional athletes found nearly half of the organizations were dissolved, stopped operating or had shown no recent signs of activity. Nearly two dozen never registered with the Illinois attorney general’s office and at least five lost their tax-exempt status by the IRS. The multi-part package included a graphic and a searchable database online created by Tribune graphics guru Ryan Marx. The project was named a Livingston finalist.

A Pitcher, Paralyzed Friend, Few Answers

May. 31, 2015\Chicago Tribune. This story, based off a review of recently filed court records that included sworn testimony from depositions, provided the most detailed picture yet of a night in which a friend of White Sox pitcher John Danks became paralyzed. What emerges is a chaotic evening colored by drugs and alcohol that paralyzed one man, destroyed friendships and led to a high-stakes legal drama still playing out in a Chicago courtroom. Danks, who was sued in 2012, declined to comment for the story, as did the paralyzed man and his brother, who was also sued.

Battle Lines Drawn on U. of I. Coach 

July 30, 2015\ After former players accused University of Illinois football coach Tim Beckman of mistreatment and mishandling their injuries, the Tribune reached out to every player he has coached during his three years in Champaign, ultimately interviewing more than four dozen former and current players. What emerged was a portrait of a program caught in discord at the outset because of Beckman’s rocky relationships with players he inherited from his predecessor. The issues facing Beckman — he has a 12-25 record — have helped fuel a crisis at the university over how coaches interact with players, as allegations of mistreatment and related lawsuits were brought by former women’s basketball players and an ex-soccer player. Presiding over the school’s sports programs is Mike Thomas, who has helped bring in donations from deep-pocketed donors but faced criticism for alienating other alumni while basketball and football teams struggled.

Dangerous Game

Nov. 8, 2014 \ Chicago Tribune. This story chronicled Jose Abreu, a star first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, who is believed to have been illegally smuggled out of Cuba. Reporting required delving into the murky and dangerous world of human trafficking, examining court records and developing sources despite the lack of cooperation from Abreu, his inner circle or the team. Crucial details developed from reporting trips to South Florida and the Dominican Republic.

Students learn cost of playing in big time

Aug. 20, 2014\ Chicago Tribune. This enterprise story explained how revenue generated from college student fees — which they pay in addition to their tuition — help fund some schools’ athletic programs. Reviewing financial data reported to the NCAA, I reported that eight of the nine public institutions in Illinois with Division I athletic programs relied on student fees for at least a quarter of the athletic department revenue.

$23 Million For Paid Leave

Oct. 20, 2012\Chicago Tribune. Co-written with Tribune reporter Alex Richards, this investigation found that the state of Illinois shelled out a combined $23 million over five years while more than 2,000 employees were on paid administrative leave. Paid leave prevents an employee from going to work — typically, during an investigation into alleged wrongdoing — and is considered a serious sanction, but there was wide leeway for supervisors to impose such an action and to extend leave periods. A followup story  revealed high figures again while the state’s deputy boxing official was paid to stay home longer than anyone, about 750 calendar days.

Sports charity manager skirts best practices

May 20, 2014\ Chicago Tribune. This story profiled a Kentucky company that managed charities started by professional athletes — including then-Chicago Bear Charles Tillman — but fell short of industry standards. Reporting included a review of hundreds of tax returns and business records, comment and analysis from experts and a visit to the business.

Maverick Investor Faces Legal Pressure

Sept. 22, 2013\Chicago Tribune. This story took readers inside the tangled world of Leon “Chip” Greenblatt, a Chicago investor known for deals, debts and conflicts. “He is like the TV commercial character — he’s the most interesting man alive,” one associate said. Two decades ago, he was one of three young traders who made $27 million in 22 days trading the stock of a bankrupt company, becoming known as one of “the bad boys of arbitrage.” But legal pressures are intensifying.

Ex-Bears Charity Now In Disarray

June 23, 2010\Chicago Tribune. At the height of his career with the Chicago Bears, Chris Zorich was perhaps better known for the work of his charity than for his tackling skills on the gridiron. But the organization fell into disarray and Zorich could not account for the more than $864,000 that were reported on its last tax return filed, from 2002. In 2012 he agreed to pay back $350,000 to authorities, and in 2013, he pleaded guilty to federal misdemeanor charges for not filing personal income tax returns.

White Sox Restaurant Paid For With Millions In Public Funds Without Return on Investment

Oct. 27, 2011\Chicago Tribune. This story revealed that Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the public agency that built and owns the stadium for the White Sox, paid nearly $7 million for construction of a restaurant, a connected team store and related infrastructure — plus just about everything inside the restaurant, from walk-in refrigerators to bar stools.

Fouled, But Not Out

March 25, 2011\Chicago Tribune. A Chicago high school boy’s basketball teams — one of the best in the country — won the state title in 2009 with a squad that included seven players who joined college programs. The team wasn’t even supposed to be in the playoffs because its coach was found to have violated recruiting rules, but officials failed to enforce that penalty. Reporting also found that the principal violated district rules by admitting two students  even though they didn’t go through the required admissions process.

Hopping On The Money Plane

Dec. 14, 2008\Times-News. This investigation revealed that the Twin Falls Police Department in Twin Falls, Idaho paid top dollar for security shifts at its airport because high-ranking officers worked them. Other airports across the state received more police protection by assigning lower-ranking officers. The city initially declined to provide financial information about the shifts, but the state’s attorney general required it be disclosed. I used the figures to create a database that led to the story. The city council later decided to hire full-time police officers at the airport.

Legislature of Hard Knocks

March 1, 2009\Times-News. Story revealed that nearly 20 percent of the 105-member Idaho Legislature did not hold four-year college degrees, a statistic that alarmed critics during a year of intense scrutiny of an education budget.

Lobbyist Steps Back From Legislative Pay Panel

Feb. 1, 2008\Times-News. This story reported that Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter picked his former longtime adviser — who had since become a lobbyist — to set the salaries of legislators, an arrangement that was nixed after I inquired to the lobbyist.

The Reeling In Of Red’s

June 15, 2008\ Times-News. This behind-the-scenes account of an unsuccessful plan to redevelop downtown Twin Falls, Idaho revealed an effort kept hidden form taxpayers that was also shrouded in ethical and legal concerns.