When Consumer Safety Does Not Seem to Matter
AAJ article highlights the ongoing problem with corporations choosing money over honesty and consumer safety.
The American Association for Justice’s (AAJ) newest report highlights corporate misconduct and how it impacts the average U.S. citizen’s everyday life. A consistent lack of transparency from these corporations demonstrates how “when corporations put profits before safety and customer and employee welfare, and the regulatory system proves unable to force change, the civil justice system is the last line of defense to protect consumers.”
Failure to Warn
Companies have both a moral and legal responsibility to warn consumers of potential dangers that can result from their products. Agrochemical company Monsanto decided to go in a different direction. Company emails that came to light as part of litigation detail how a Monsanto executive suggested ghostwriting scientific reports. Those reports eventually led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conclude that Roundup, a weed killer composed of glyphosate, did not cause cancer.
Lack of Transparency
When a company markets products that are intended to be used for the well-being of its consumers but fails to inform consumers of its products’ safety hazards, that lack of transparency can have dire consequences. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) faced six of the seven largest dangerous-product verdicts in 2016 and faced numerous more in 2017. The following areas of litigation recently involved J&J:
Over 5,000 lawsuits involving talc that potentially causes ovarian cancer have been brought against J&J. Documents brought to light during litigation indicate that in the 1970s, J&J was aware of asbestos fiber contamination in its talc products.
This blood thinner, also known as rivaroxaban, has been associated with more than 370 deaths according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Nevertheless, J&J continues to profit making over $2.29 billion from this drug alone.
Risperdal is an antipsychotic drug used to treat certain mental/mood disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autism. The pharmaceutical company also illegally marketed it as an aide to manage the behavior of elderly nursing home residents, people with mental disabilities, and children. Scientific evidence has shown that teens who use Risperdal are five times more likely to develop gynecomastia—the appearance of female breast tissue. In some of the over 18,000 cases against J&J, the company is accused of concealing evidence that shows gynecomastia rates with Risperdal use are much higher than the company initially claimed.
- Transvaginal Mesh
Ethicon, a J&J division, marketed its transvaginal mesh as a low-cost way to treat urinary incontinence for women. What the company failed to disclose is the serious risk of injury associated with the product.
- Artificial Hips
When DePuy, a J&J division, first introduced their product in 2005, doctors reported shedding of metallic debris leading to infection, fractures, and nerve damage. Company executives talked about fixing the design flaw, but in the end, chose not to. The artificial hips even failed internal tests, and 40 percent were predicted to fail within five years of implantation. Even after surgeons working with DePuy halted use of the hips, the company continued selling them.
DePuy did not stop sales of the artificial hips until 2010 and then blamed it on poor sales rather than medical complications. Subsequently, juries have returned substantial verdicts in trials where plaintiffs have claimed DePuy failed to properly warn patients and doctors that the devices would fail prematurely.
Aggressive Marketing Tactics
McKesson Corporation has turned opioids into a $13 billion-a-year industry by distributing pain medicines across the country even though the company was aware of the drugs’ highly addictive nature and the fact that they are sold on the black market. Opioids work by attaching to and activating opioid pain receptor proteins, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When these drugs attach to their receptors, they inhibit the transmission of pain signals.
Distributors like McKesson have overlooked federal regulations requiring companies to report suspicious activity involving narcotic orders such as unusual size and/or frequency. Instead of following these regulations, the AAJ reports that opioid distributors “[f]looded [the] market with enough opioids to keep every person in America medicated around the clock for three weeks” and lined their pockets with money from the sales. According to a 2016 Washington Post report, at least 13 drug distributors knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of prescription opioids were hitting the black market, but continued to send the drugs.” Even when pressed by government regulators to have better oversight concerning distribution, McKesson spent over $100 million lobbying to pass a law that would make it almost impossible for the Drug Enforcement Agency to freeze any questionable narcotics shipments.