Johnson & Johnson to Pay $572 Million in Opioid Crisis Lawsuit

This week, a judge in Oklahoma ordered pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the opioid crisis that has ravaged the country and killed more than 6,000 people in Oklahoma alone. The ruling is the first to hold a drug manufacturer responsible for the crisis, which was fueled by companies flooding the market with addictive painkillers and pushing doctors to overprescribe the drugs. The amount is far less than the $17.5 billion that the state’s attorney general sought, and the company says it plans to appeal the ruling.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled that the state met its burden in arguing that the company created a “temporary public nuisance” by using “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids,” and added in his ruling that “those actions annoyed, injured or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans.”

Judge Balkman cited Johnson & Johnson’s deceptive and aggressive marketing of painkillers to doctors, and the company’s practice of discouraging its sales representatives from discussing addiction or other negative consequences of using the drugs, while encouraging their prescription for both moderate and severe pain. The company also sought to convince doctors that they were under-prescribing pain medications and that having patients ask for higher doses was not a sign of addiction, just indicative of needing more to address their pain.

Johnson & Johnson markets the painkillers Duragesic (fentanyl) and Nucynta, both of which contain opioids. The company has also long manufactured the raw ingredients for other companies’ opioid-based painkillers, having bought a company in Tasmania in the 1980s that grows poppies and processed opium. According to the New York Times, by the height of the opioid epidemic, the company had become “the leading supplier for the ingredients in painkillers in the United States,” having developed a specific strain of poppy that provided the basis for Purdue’s Oxycontin, as well as manufacturing and supplying ingredients for “a range of other drugs, including hydrocodone, morphine, codeine and buprenorphine.”

Michael Ullmann, Johnson & Johnson’s general counsel, released a statement calling the judgement “a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states.” He also noted, “The unprecedented award for the state’s ‘abatement plan’ has sweeping ramifications for many industries and bears no relation to the company’s medicine or conduct.”

The amount decided for damages may actually seem low—$572 million will reportedly only fund a single year of Oklahoma’s opioid recovery plan, which the state estimates will cost $12.7 billion to $17.5 billion over 20 to 30 years. The company’s stock even rose this week, which some attribute to relief over the relatively low damages.

However, many are cheering the Oklahoma ruling as other lawsuits near their court dates. This includes a massive federal lawsuit scheduled for October in Cleveland, Ohio, that brings together more than 2,000 separate cases. Judge Balkman’s decision that the company’s activities constituted a public nuisance opens the door for similar rulings in other state cases, and an additional legal avenue for holding companies responsible for their part in the epidemic.

Also this week, Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pledged to pay $10 billion to $12 billion to settle thousands opioid-related claims, according to NBC News. Purdue had been part of the Oklahoma suit, but to avoid the lawsuit, Purdue agreed in March to pay a $270 million settlement to establish an addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University, and provide continued funding over five years. Purdue’s owners the Sackler family also agreed to pay $75 million to the center for five years. In May, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals also settled with Oklahoma for $85 million, which will further fund the state’s effort to combat opioid addiction.

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Interview with Darla Finchum, Head of MetLife Auto & Home

Darla Finchum

As part of our series of profiles of insurance professionals, we interviewed Darla Finchum, Head of MetLife Auto & Home. She is responsible for growth and management of the company’s personal and small commercial lines, as well as transforming the business to meet the needs of today’s technology-focused consumers. Finchum is also an active member of MetLife’s U.S. Business Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.

I.I.I.: Please tell us a little about your professional background. How did you end up working in insurance and what has your career trajectory been like at MetLife?

Darla Finchum: I’ve spent my career in personal insurance in the property and casualty industry. I started right out of college in the claims organization of an insurance carrier. Claims is where we put people’s lives back together in some of the most devastating moments. I developed a passion for what insurance does for people and for society. It is such a noble profession.

Once I knew that I had a passion and intellectual curiosity for insurance and what the industry stood for, I sought out roles and opportunities in various parts of the insurance business—from underwriting to sales to operations to services. I really began to understand the customer, the back end and front end, the business operations, and why it’s important for us to be a partner in the lifetime of our customers.

I came to MetLife Auto & Home through an acquisition in 2000 and have held various leadership roles including chief claims officer, prior to my current role as head of the business. It’s a real privilege to lead MetLife Auto & Home, drive our business growth and ultimately be there for our customers.

In your early career, has there been a mentor or boss who particularly encouraged and inspired you? If so, is there anything they said or did that you still draw on in your role as leader?

DF: I have been fortunate to meet, connect, and build mentor relationships with many individuals in both my professional and personal lives. My network and group of trusted advisors include former bosses, colleagues both inside and outside my organization, as well as individuals I’ve connected with outside of work, people I have met in life. I believe it’s essential to have a network you can call on, who will tell you what you need to hear and be there in pivotal moments to help in making those big decisions.

Most organizations agree that a diverse workforce is a good thing. Sometimes overshadowed by discussions about diversity is the topic of inclusion. One HR consultant described diversity as the “who” and inclusion as the “how”. How is MetLife promoting inclusion?

DF: MetLife has developed initiatives designed to strengthen an inclusive work environment. Designed in collaboration with human resources partners, business leaders, and external resources, the initiatives focus on three pillars: Attraction, Development/Advancement, and Retention. We define inclusion as a commitment to recognizing and appreciating the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique in an atmosphere that promotes and celebrates individual and collective achievement aligned to our values. We promote a culture where we respect others and listen for both facts and feelings to show respect for others’ perspectives. We focus on commonalities and value differences by identifying areas of agreement and shared goals.

Diversity, inclusion, and associate engagement are top priorities for me as a leader. Our Enterprise Local Inclusion Action Teams and Americas U.S. Diversity Task Force are two programs I’m involved in to promote and create inclusion across MetLife. Understanding employee values not only supports and helps them to thrive; it also has a positive impact on the business. Being involved in these enterprise teams gives me the opportunity to implement best practices across the broader organization, starting at the top with my senior leadership team.

How does MetLife go about recruiting employees from non-insurance backgrounds?

DF: It’s important for businesses to have look outside their industry to not only hire people with great experience but also individuals with intellectual curiosity, an ownership mindset, and who are willing to challenge the status quo, take risks, and experiment. MetLife leverages our recruitment marketing platform to promote jobs on our career site and various diverse job boards.  In addition to job boards, our recruitment teams leverage several tools and channels to meet prospective candidates where they are and promote our employer brand, such as social media, Glassdoor, Indeed, job fairs, AI tools, community-based organizations, and employee referrals.  MetLife is focused on targeting candidates who align with our core behaviors and values from a variety of industries.

What steps is MetLife taking/has taken to build a consumer-centric culture?

DF: Today’s consumers are aware of what’s possible and expect to engage with businesses on their own terms and in their preferred channels. At MetLife Auto & Home, we are focused on putting the customer at the center of our business to ensure we are delivering products and coverage our customers need, as well as quality service and experience they want.

We provide a personalized experience in which our customers can engage with us whenever, wherever, and however they chose. Whether that’s over the phone, through our website and apps, or in-person, we are a trusted advisor ensuring we provide the right types of guidance and advice to our customers.

In today’s world of emerging technologies, it’s important to have a balance of leveraging the latest technology like artificial intelligence, aerial imagery, and drones with the human connection. While digitalization and speed are core to today’s customer experience, the human connection is important in insurance. Immediately after an auto accident a customer may want to speak with a person at their carrier to verbally explain what happen, ask questions, and receive reassurance the claim will be handled. Once the initial claim has been submitted, a customer may choose to only receive updates via email and/or the app as they have the confidence in us that the claim will be properly handled.

And finally – What are you passionate about outside of work?

DF: While I’m passionate about insurance and my career, I’m just as (if not more!) passionate about my family – I strive for work-life balance. Whether it’s watching my grandson play baseball, a girl’s trip with my daughters or our annual family vacations, spending time with my family is a top priority and joy of my life. The balance of work and life is something I encourage for all our associates to make a priority. I remind them they can have it all, but they can’t do it all, so surround yourself with people who will help you along the way.

 

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Interview with Darla Finchum, Head of MetLife Auto & Home

Darla Finchum

As part of our series of profiles of insurance professionals, we interviewed Darla Finchum, Head of MetLife Auto & Home. She is responsible for growth and management of the company’s personal and small commercial lines, as well as transforming the business to meet the needs of today’s technology-focused consumers. Finchum is also an active member of MetLife’s U.S. Business Diversity & Inclusion Task Force.

I.I.I.: Please tell us a little about your professional background. How did you end up working in insurance and what has your career trajectory been like at MetLife?

Darla Finchum: I’ve spent my career in personal insurance in the property and casualty industry. I started right out of college in the claims organization of an insurance carrier. Claims is where we put people’s lives back together in some of the most devastating moments. I developed a passion for what insurance does for people and for society. It is such a noble profession.

Once I knew that I had a passion and intellectual curiosity for insurance and what the industry stood for, I sought out roles and opportunities in various parts of the insurance business—from underwriting to sales to operations to services. I really began to understand the customer, the back end and front end, the business operations, and why it’s important for us to be a partner in the lifetime of our customers.

I came to MetLife Auto & Home through an acquisition in 2000 and have held various leadership roles including chief claims officer, prior to my current role as head of the business. It’s a real privilege to lead MetLife Auto & Home, drive our business growth and ultimately be there for our customers.

In your early career, has there been a mentor or boss who particularly encouraged and inspired you? If so, is there anything they said or did that you still draw on in your role as leader?

DF: I have been fortunate to meet, connect, and build mentor relationships with many individuals in both my professional and personal lives. My network and group of trusted advisors include former bosses, colleagues both inside and outside my organization, as well as individuals I’ve connected with outside of work, people I have met in life. I believe it’s essential to have a network you can call on, who will tell you what you need to hear and be there in pivotal moments to help in making those big decisions.

Most organizations agree that a diverse workforce is a good thing. Sometimes overshadowed by discussions about diversity is the topic of inclusion. One HR consultant described diversity as the “who” and inclusion as the “how”. How is MetLife promoting inclusion?

DF: MetLife has developed initiatives designed to strengthen an inclusive work environment. Designed in collaboration with human resources partners, business leaders, and external resources, the initiatives focus on three pillars: Attraction, Development/Advancement, and Retention. We define inclusion as a commitment to recognizing and appreciating the variety of characteristics that make individuals unique in an atmosphere that promotes and celebrates individual and collective achievement aligned to our values. We promote a culture where we respect others and listen for both facts and feelings to show respect for others’ perspectives. We focus on commonalities and value differences by identifying areas of agreement and shared goals.

Diversity, inclusion, and associate engagement are top priorities for me as a leader. Our Enterprise Local Inclusion Action Teams and Americas U.S. Diversity Task Force are two programs I’m involved in to promote and create inclusion across MetLife. Understanding employee values not only supports and helps them to thrive; it also has a positive impact on the business. Being involved in these enterprise teams gives me the opportunity to implement best practices across the broader organization, starting at the top with my senior leadership team.

How does MetLife go about recruiting employees from non-insurance backgrounds?

DF: It’s important for businesses to have look outside their industry to not only hire people with great experience but also individuals with intellectual curiosity, an ownership mindset, and who are willing to challenge the status quo, take risks, and experiment. MetLife leverages our recruitment marketing platform to promote jobs on our career site and various diverse job boards.  In addition to job boards, our recruitment teams leverage several tools and channels to meet prospective candidates where they are and promote our employer brand, such as social media, Glassdoor, Indeed, job fairs, AI tools, community-based organizations, and employee referrals.  MetLife is focused on targeting candidates who align with our core behaviors and values from a variety of industries.

What steps is MetLife taking/has taken to build a consumer-centric culture?

DF: Today’s consumers are aware of what’s possible and expect to engage with businesses on their own terms and in their preferred channels. At MetLife Auto & Home, we are focused on putting the customer at the center of our business to ensure we are delivering products and coverage our customers need, as well as quality service and experience they want.

We provide a personalized experience in which our customers can engage with us whenever, wherever, and however they chose. Whether that’s over the phone, through our website and apps, or in-person, we are a trusted advisor ensuring we provide the right types of guidance and advice to our customers.

In today’s world of emerging technologies, it’s important to have a balance of leveraging the latest technology like artificial intelligence, aerial imagery, and drones with the human connection. While digitalization and speed are core to today’s customer experience, the human connection is important in insurance. Immediately after an auto accident a customer may want to speak with a person at their carrier to verbally explain what happen, ask questions, and receive reassurance the claim will be handled. Once the initial claim has been submitted, a customer may choose to only receive updates via email and/or the app as they have the confidence in us that the claim will be properly handled.

And finally – What are you passionate about outside of work?

DF: While I’m passionate about insurance and my career, I’m just as (if not more!) passionate about my family – I strive for work-life balance. Whether it’s watching my grandson play baseball, a girl’s trip with my daughters or our annual family vacations, spending time with my family is a top priority and joy of my life. The balance of work and life is something I encourage for all our associates to make a priority. I remind them they can have it all, but they can’t do it all, so surround yourself with people who will help you along the way.

 

Read More...

Johnson & Johnson to Pay $572 Million in Opioid Crisis Lawsuit

This week, a judge in Oklahoma ordered pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its role in the opioid crisis that has ravaged the country and killed more than 6,000 people in Oklahoma alone. The ruling is the first to hold a drug manufacturer responsible for the crisis, which was fueled by companies flooding the market with addictive painkillers and pushing doctors to overprescribe the drugs. The amount is far less than the $17.5 billion that the state’s attorney general sought, and the company says it plans to appeal the ruling.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman ruled that the state met its burden in arguing that the company created a “temporary public nuisance” by using “misleading marketing and promotion of opioids,” and added in his ruling that “those actions annoyed, injured or endangered the comfort, repose, health or safety of Oklahomans.”

Judge Balkman cited Johnson & Johnson’s deceptive and aggressive marketing of painkillers to doctors, and the company’s practice of discouraging its sales representatives from discussing addiction or other negative consequences of using the drugs, while encouraging their prescription for both moderate and severe pain. The company also sought to convince doctors that they were under-prescribing pain medications and that having patients ask for higher doses was not a sign of addiction, just indicative of needing more to address their pain.

Johnson & Johnson markets the painkillers Duragesic (fentanyl) and Nucynta, both of which contain opioids. The company has also long manufactured the raw ingredients for other companies’ opioid-based painkillers, having bought a company in Tasmania in the 1980s that grows poppies and processed opium. According to the New York Times, by the height of the opioid epidemic, the company had become “the leading supplier for the ingredients in painkillers in the United States,” having developed a specific strain of poppy that provided the basis for Purdue’s Oxycontin, as well as manufacturing and supplying ingredients for “a range of other drugs, including hydrocodone, morphine, codeine and buprenorphine.”

Michael Ullmann, Johnson & Johnson’s general counsel, released a statement calling the judgement “a misapplication of public nuisance law that has already been rejected by judges in other states.” He also noted, “The unprecedented award for the state’s ‘abatement plan’ has sweeping ramifications for many industries and bears no relation to the company’s medicine or conduct.”

The amount decided for damages may actually seem low—$572 million will reportedly only fund a single year of Oklahoma’s opioid recovery plan, which the state estimates will cost $12.7 billion to $17.5 billion over 20 to 30 years. The company’s stock even rose this week, which some attribute to relief over the relatively low damages.

However, many are cheering the Oklahoma ruling as other lawsuits near their court dates. This includes a massive federal lawsuit scheduled for October in Cleveland, Ohio, that brings together more than 2,000 separate cases. Judge Balkman’s decision that the company’s activities constituted a public nuisance opens the door for similar rulings in other state cases, and an additional legal avenue for holding companies responsible for their part in the epidemic.

Also this week, Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pledged to pay $10 billion to $12 billion to settle thousands opioid-related claims, according to NBC News. Purdue had been part of the Oklahoma suit, but to avoid the lawsuit, Purdue agreed in March to pay a $270 million settlement to establish an addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University, and provide continued funding over five years. Purdue’s owners the Sackler family also agreed to pay $75 million to the center for five years. In May, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals also settled with Oklahoma for $85 million, which will further fund the state’s effort to combat opioid addiction.

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From the I.I.I. Daily: Our most popular content, October 11 to October 17

Here are the 5 most clicked on articles from this week’s I.I.I. Daily newsletter.

To subscribe to the I.I.I. Daily email daily@iii.org.

 

 

 

 

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Strategies to Prevent Internal Fraud

As employees can be key perpetrators of fraud, creating and implementing best practices with regard to insiders is a key part of an enterprise’s everyday risk management procedures. For example, developing internal controls that involve multiple layers of review for financial transactions, and arranging independent reviews of the company’s financial records can prevent malfeasance, detect ongoing fraud and prevent it from continuing. In fact, according to Kroll’s 2019 Global Fraud and Risk Report, businesses discovered insider fraud by conducting internal audits 38% of the time, through external audits 20% of the time and from whistleblowers 11% of the time.

Technology solutions provider Column Case Investigative recently examined five common types of fraud that businesses face, including employees falsifying their timesheets to steal money from the company, taking intellectual property or passing off counterfeit items as genuine, funneling money away from vendors to themselves, or soliciting favors or compensation from clients or vendors for preferential treatment. These tactics can impact a company’s profits and expose it to possible litigation, but also pose risk to its reputation with customers and partners, as well as its competitiveness.

To best mitigate these risks, the provider recommended that companies do their due diligence in the hiring process to detect any warning signs that applicants may have a motive to commit fraud. To limit intellectual property theft and misuse, they should limit access to important information and materials. Enterprises can also create clear ethical standards for employee conduct and a positive culture in which workers are happier, more committed to the company and more comfortable reporting fraud when they see or suspect it happening.

Check out the infographic below for more best practices to mitigate employee fraud risks:

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Trip Coverage: It’s Not Just About Cancellations

As I’ve written previously, many who travel for pleasure think little, if at all, about the risks associated with their destinations and plans. Travel insurance, such folks believe, is to cover the cost and inconvenience of trip cancellations and lost luggage.

Who wants to think about illness, accidents, and – you know, the other thing – when going on holiday?

You don’t buy travel insurance for the best-case scenario. It’s when the worst happens you will likely regret not having it.

Industry numbers seem to bear this out. A recent report by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (USTIA) found Americans spent nearly $3.8 billion on travel insurance in 2018, up nearly 41 percent from 2016.  However, trip cancellation/interruption coverage accounted for nearly 90 percent of the benefits purchased. Medical and medical evacuation benefits accounted for just over 6 percent.

Most common claim, but…

Indeed, trip cancellation is the most common claim paid on travel policies (or so I’m told – insurers hold their claims data close to the vest). Assuming this is the case, one might be tempted to roll the dice when it comes to occurrences that seem less likely – say, an automobile accident, a bad fall, or a heart attack or stroke.

Last week’s story about a 22-year-old Briton fighting for his life after falling from a hotel balcony in Ibiza got me thinking about value of the “post-departure benefits” of travel insurance. According to the article, the young man had insurance, though it wasn’t clear what kind of coverage he’d bought. The article did say his parents are soliciting funds on line to help with expenses.

“Globally, an estimated 37 million unintentional falls requiring medical treatment occur each year” write researchers in the journal Injury Epidemiology, citing 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) data. Unsurprisingly, alcohol consumption was found to be a major risk factor in these falls.

During one three-month period in 2018, the BBC reported, citing the Association of British Travel Agents, “11 British holidaymakers have been reported as falling from a balcony – with eight of them in their teens or 20s.” In March 2019, a Missouri man fell from the balcony of a Florida hotel where he was vacationing. In the same month, a Michigan teen on vacation in Cancun fell to his death.

Think you’re too smart, careful, or sober to fall from a balcony? Well, the most common cause of injury and death on vacation isn’t falls. It is – you guessed it – automobile accidents. According to a WHO and World Bank report, “deaths from road traffic injuries account for around 25% of all deaths from injury”.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1.3 million people are killed and 20-50 million injured in crashes worldwide annually. The CDC says 25,000 of those deaths involve tourists.

There are things you can’t predict

Or maybe you avoid a fall or a crash and wind up in a situation like New Yorker Steve Lapidus, who credits his $79 Allianz travel insurance policy with saving his life when he became seriously ill while on vacation in Italy. Steve was in a coma for several days with sepsis and pneumonia and given 50/50 odds of surviving. But, after six-and-a-half weeks of medical care, doctors cleared him to fly home.

Man who fell ill during overseas trip says Richmond travel insurance company saved his life

The problem was, he couldn’t walk and needed special care and a specially modified plane. Lufthansa built a special pod within one of its commercial flights.

That $79 policy covered the entire $70,000 bill.

Hope for the best – insure for the worst

No one wants to buy insurance. Who on Earth would choose to buy a product that, under the best possible circumstances, they never use?

But you don’t buy insurance for the best-case scenario. It’s when the worst happens that you will likely regret not having it.

 

 

 

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