WEEKLY MDL UPDATE by MASS TORT NEXUS for Week of November 13, 2017

The week in mass torts around the country:

By Mark York, Mass Tort Nexus (November 16, 2017)

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MASS TORT NEXUS

 Verdicts on November 16, 2017: 

J&J gets hit hard again, in a $247 million Pinnacle hip implant verdict, DePuy Orthopaedics Pinnacle Implant MDL 2244, in bellwether trial of 3:15-cv-03489 Alicea et al v. DePuy Orthopaedics Inc et al. (DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL 2244 Briefcase)

Drug maker Auxilium won a defense verdict in their Testim product bellwether trial, where plaintiffs claimed it caused a heart attack in a verdict reached in the US District Court Northern District of Illinois, Judge Kennelly, in MDL 2545 Testosterone Replacement Therapy. (Testosterone Therapy MDL 2545 USDC ND Illinois)

Johnson & Johnson Wins a Defense Verdict in Los Angeles Court Talcum Powder Mesothelioma Trial, Jury Finds J&J Not Liable in Tina Herford et al. v. Johnson & Johnson Case number BC646315, consolidated in LAOSD Asbestos Cases, case number JCCP4674, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.  (J&J Talcum Powder Cancer Litigation Briefcase)

Senator Bob Menendez  judge declares a mistrial in New Jersey federal court trial, after a hung jury cannot agree unanimously on charges. Question is- Are the Senator and his doctor friend in Florida, just that-were they just friends or was there active bribery taking place?

Recent Case Updates:

>Plaintiff in DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Asks Texas Jury For A Hundred Million + In Punitive Damages

At the close of arguments in the latest DePuy MDL 2244 trial on Monday November 13, 2017, six New York plaintiffs asked a Texas federal jury to hit Johnson & Johnson and it’s DePuy subsidiary, with at least a nine-figure punitive damages award. Attorneys asked that J&J and DePuy be punished for making and marketing their Pinnacle model hip implants, an alleged defective line of metal-on-metal hip implants, that have caused many thousands of injuries to unsuspecting patients. If this jury follows suit on prior Pinnacle bellwether jury awards, then J&J and DePuy should be ready for a massive verdict, as the last jury awarded California plaintiffs over one billion dollars in December 2016, sending a clear message that the company’s Pinnacle design and subsequent marketing policies have failed.

METALLSOIS DAMAGE

Closing arguments wrapped up on the two-month bellwether trial, where plaintiffs claimed they suffered “metallosis” which caused tissue damage and negative reactions to the Pinnacle Ultamet line of metal-on-metal hip implants made by J&J’s DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. unit. Depending on the jury verdict, perhaps J&J will consider coming to the settlement table if another massive verdict is awarded, or they may continue the aggressive “we’ve done no wrong stance” resulting in more plaintiff verdicts in the future..

 >Travelers Insurance Wins Declaratory Judgment Suit Over Defense Coverage In Orange County and Chicago Opioid Lawsuits:

“California Appeals court says Watson not covered”

Watson Pharma, Inc. and it’s parent Activis, Inc. were denied insurance coverage in a November 6, 2017 ruling by the California State Court of Appeals in the 2014 Declaratory Judgment action filed by Travelers Insurance in an Orange County, CA court where Travelers successfully asserted claims that they were not required to defend or indemnify Watson in the underlying opioid based litigation filed by Santa Clara and Orange County against opioid manufacturers, due to Watson’s “intentional bad conduct” in their business practices related to sales and marketing of it’s opioid products. The Appeals Court also excluded Watson’s coverage in a similar opioid lawsuit against them in a Chicago, Illinois federal case where the City of Chicago filed similar claims against Watson over opioid marketing abuses in 2014. Perhaps other insurance carrier will take notice and look closer at denying policy coverage for many other opioid manufacturers who have been sued across the country in cases with almost the exact claims as those alleged by Santa Clara County and the City of Chicago.

>NEW XARELTO TRIAL:

Former FDA Commissioner Testifies in Philadelphia Xarelto Trial-

“Xarelto Warnings Are Inadequate”

— Former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Commissioner David Kessler testified during the first state court trial in Philadelphia, telling the jury on Tuesday that “warning labels for the blood thinner Xarelto failed to provide adequate information to doctors and consumers about the risk of bleeding that some patients could face when using the drug”.

David Kessler, FDA Commissioner under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, told jurors that Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson’s warning labels for the medication understated the risk of significant bleeding events that had been seen in television and print ads across the country for years, and failed to disclose the true risks associated with prescribing the blockbuster drug. This trial, expected to take six weeks, is the first state court bellwether trial for the blood thinner Xarelto, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the prior trials took place in federal courts in Louisiana and Mississippi where the defense prevailed in all 3 trials earlier this year. Those trials were all bellwether trials, as part of the Xarelto MDL 2592 in front of Judge Eldon Fallon, US District Court, ED Louisiana. Will the change of venue to Pennsylvania State Court have a different outcome than the three prior Xeralto trial losses?

>Luzerene County, Pennsylvania Files RICO Suit Over Opioid Marketing Against Drug Makers

Luzerne County in Northeast Pennsylvania has filed a federal RICO based lawsuit accusing pharmaceutical companies including Purdue, Pharma, Endo, Janssen and Teva of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by illegally marketing highly addictive painkillers that have contributed to a costly national opioid epidemic. The suit filed in US district Court of Pennsylvania by Luzerne County is one of many cases opioid drugmakers and distributors are facing as state and local governments seek to recoup costs they’ve incurred in the increased marketing and prescribing of opioid painkillers, and the resultant spikes in addiction and overdose.

OPIOID MARKETING ABUSES

“The manufacturers aggressively pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction,” the complaint, which was filed on Wednesday, said. “These pharmaceutical companies … turned patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit.”
“The lawsuit accused the drugmakers of using false and deceptive marketing practices over the course of the last two decades, including pushing the opioid painkillers for treatment of chronic pain, to boost prescriptions for the drugs

COMMON CLAIMS AGAINST ALL OPIOiD MAKERS

Among the companies’ primary claims, cited by Luzerne county and others, evidence the manufacturers intentionally misled consumers, was that the drugs were not addictive when prescribed to treat legitimate pain. This is one of the key claims used by all parties filing suit against the opioid manufacturers, across the entire country.

Case heading is: Luzerne County v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 3:17-cv-2043, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

>Opioid Litigation Roundup: An Overview Of Recently Filed Cases and MDL 2804

In addition to the many counties and other communities from across the country that have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers in MDL 2802, set for a JPML consolidation hearing November 30, 2017 a new group of plaintiffs have joined the increasing pool of parties filing suit against Big Pharma opioid manufacturers and their distributors. Unions are now joining in the suits alleging that the business practices of the opioid makers and distributors caused catastrophic healthcare and related labor problems everywhere in the country over the last 15 years. Locals from the Electrical Workers; Commercial Food Service and Teamsters are now plaintiffs in the MDL 2804, which if approved at the upcoming JPML hearings in St Louis, will probably cause a flood of additional filings by unions across the country.

State attorneys general, a Native American tribe and individual consumers are among the ever increasing pool of plaintiffs who’ve brought lawsuits against drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors allegedly responsible for epidemic levels of opioid abuse. As word spreads among the network of local governments, and discussion take place about the municipal opioid lawsuits being filed, there will be a flood of new complaints filed, that will match or exceed the number of cases filed in the massive “Tobacco Litigation” which is quickly gaining comparison as the opioid case filings are looking to be comparable in size and probably exceed the tobacco litigation in damages.

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California Appeals Court Denies Insurance Coverage For Opioid Drug Makers Defense: Will other insurers say no to opioid coverage?

Profits over Patients Continues”

Mark York (November 15, 2017)

Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS)  On November 6, 2017 California’s Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District, ruled that Travelers Property Casualty does not have a duty to defend or indemnify Watson Pharmaceuticals (Activis, Inc), in a long running opioid related lawsuit based in Orange County Superior Court, as well as a second opioid related suit in Chicago.

TRAVELERS FILES DECLARATORY COMPLAINT

Watson Pharmaceuticals aka Activis, Inc., along with several other opioid manufacturers, were sued by two California counties and the city of Chicago in 2014. The claimants were seeking redress for costs related to the opioid epidemic in their respective communities. Travelers denied Watson’s demand to pay for its defense and subsequently brought a lawsuit against the drug company. Travelers filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment requesting the court declare that insurance coverage or indemnification of Watson-Activis under policies issued to Watson.

The California Court of Appeal detailed in its 31-page ruling that the policy covers damages for bodily injuries caused by an accident, and that the actions of Watson-Activis were intentional and not subject to policy coverage.

OPINION CLEARLY DENIES COVERAGE

“The California action and the Chicago action do not create a potential liability for an accident because they are based, and can only be read as being based, on the deliberate and intentional conduct of Watson that produced injuries—including a resurgence in heroin use that were neither unexpected nor unforeseen,” Justice Richard Fybel wrote in the ruling.

WATSON CONDUCT IS EXCLUDED

“All of the injuries arose out of Watson’s products or the alleged statements and misrepresentations made about those products, and therefore fall within the product exclusions clause of the policies,” Fybel added.

“The takeaway is that the opioid crisis has gone into the realm of whether there is insurance coverage to pay for some of the costs being incurred by public entities,” commented Larry Golub, a lawyer and partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson who is unattached to the case.

“I think there is a potential for more cases,” Golub told Connecticut Law Tribune. “Big bucks are being spent to deal with the opioids crisis.”

This is the second time Travelers has won a ruling against Watson. In August 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the insurer did not have to defend Anda, a division of Watson Pharmaceuticals in a West Virginia federal court case over the “prescription drug abuse” crisis in that state. The court based its decision on the exclusions of the company’s insurance policy.

OPINION EXCERPT IN TRAVELERS vs. ANDA-WATSON

Background: Anda is a wholesale pharmaceutical distributor. The State of West Virginia has sued Anda and other pharmaceutical companies in West Virginia state court, requesting an injunction against their distribution practices and seeking compensation for expenses the state alleges it has incurred as a result of the proliferation of “Pill Mills” and the attendant “opioid epidemic.” Further stating “The judgment of the district court is affirmed, and the liability policy coverage for Anda and Watson in the West Virginia opioid suit is denied.”

Will denial of insurance coverage become a trend in the exploding number od lawsuits filed against opioid manufactures, distributors and will Big Pharma finally be forced to admit the wholesale opioid abuse designed in the boardroom and placed into American commerce by any means necessary over the last 20+ years?

 

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Targeting Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

The Major Focus Across The USA is Now Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

Mark A. York (November 3, 2017)

(Mass Tort Nexus) A bipartisan group of states and their attorneys general have started massive joint investigations into the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. These drug makers are the largest in the country and are considered at the center of the current national addiction epidemic. This includes the executive suite and boardrooms of all opiate manufacturers, as the policy and direction for the massive growth in opiate prescriptions could not have gone unnoticed by executives at the opiate drug makers, for close to 15 years. Record earnings, bonuses and SEC filings all point to “boardroom knowledge” of ever increasing opiate focused sales efforts.

The state actions are now parallel to the “Motion for Consolidation in “The Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804” , filed with the Joint Panel for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL 2804 is set for a Consolidation Motion Hearing before the JMPL panel in St. Louis,  MO on November 30, 2017, where numerous Midwest counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia as well as the city of Birmingham, Alabama joined together to file suit against the 3 largest distributors of opiates in the country, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. Also named in the suit are the primary Big Pharma opiate manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo, Teva and others as additional defendants.

Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania have launched full investigations, following the lead of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids. Other states are also beginning the review of opioid manufacturers and will decide if they are joining the others in filing legal claims.

“We are looking into the role of marketing and how related corporate business practices might have played into increasing prescriptions and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Its currently unclear exactly how many states are involved in the probe, though officials said a majority of attorneys general are part of the coalition. Among those leading the probe is Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican.

Officials did not specify which companies were under investigation, but suffice it to say, any company that made and marketed opioids products over the last 10 years will be scrutinized.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Separate lawsuits by attorneys general in Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and Mississippi, are pursuing opioid-related cases as of September 2017, with many more following suit very soon. They are have targeting Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), Endo International Plc(ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and Allergan Plc(AGN.N) as well as leaving the door open to add additional defendants, based on the information revealed in the ongoing multi-state investigations.

New Jersey recently filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc over marketing scheme for its Fentanyl product known as “Subsys”, and the massive off-label marketing campaign for uses other than FDA approved “cancer pain” treatments. The entire executive board of Insys was indicted in December 2016, along with many of its sales staff and numerous doctors across the country, with at least to physicians being sentenced to 20 years in prison by the US District Court in Alabama. See Insys Therapeutics, Inc Executives Indicted Over Fentanyl Sales Campaign.

Teva in a statement said on Thursday it is “committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids.” Representatives for the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their products as safe and effective and saying that they carried warning labels that disclosed their risks. The specific allegation focus more on “off label” and doctor targeting and marketing practices that repeatedly encouraged over-writing of opiate prescriptions for patients with minimal pain issues.

In announcing his office’s lawsuit in May 2017, Ohio Attorney General DeWine said the drug companies helped unleash the crisis by spending millions of dollars marketing and promoting such drugs as Purdue’s OxyContin, without consideration of the long term effects of the related addiction, which Purdue was absolutely aware of throughout the years of profits that now total billions of dollars.

The lawsuit said the drug companies disseminated misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids as part of a marketing scheme aimed at persuading doctors and patients that drugs should be used for chronic rather than short-term pain.  Pain centers and medical practices across the country started writing an ever increasing number of high dose opioid prescriptions for what would be considered low to mid-level pain treatment.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including those in several California counties, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio, three Tennessee district attorneys, and nine New York counties have also filed individual suits.

It is unknown at this time, if all of the legal actions filed by governmental entities across the country will be consolidated into MDL 2804, which may be the most effective way to manage the soon to be massive number of legal claims against Big Pharma and their long term opiate profit centers. Municipalities across the country seeking to recoup the enormous financial losses brought on by the opioid crisis.

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Insys Therapeutics, Inc. Founder and Billionaire John Kapoor, Indicted For Bribing Doctors to Prescribe Fentanyl

Is this the start of indictments against senior executives at Big Pharma opioid manufacturers”

By Mark A. York (October 27, 2017)

(Mass Tort Nexus)

The founder of Insys Therapeutics, Inc., Johnathon N. Kapoor was arrested Thursday October 26, 2017 and charged with leading a massive conspiracy across the United States to pay bribes and use fraudulent sales methods in the illegal distribution of Subsys, a fentanyl spray intended for cancer patients. The Insys boardroom orchestrated an “off label” marketing campaign of “Subsys” which is a fast-acting sublingual fentanyl product, resulting in indictments against all members of the pre-2017 Insys executive board, as well as mid level managers and sales representatives across the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. John N. Kapoor, 74, of Phoenix, Arizona, the former Chairman-CEO of Insys and still a member of its board, was indicted on federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback law. The racketeering and fraud charges carry prison sentences of up to 20 years, while the kickback charge can bring up to five years as well as millions of dollars in fines and asset forfeitures

Prosecutors allege the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to doctors in exchange for prescribing a sublingual spray called Subsys that contained the powerful and synthetic opioid fentanyl which is highly addictive. Three top prescribers have already been convicted of taking bribes from Insys, along with several sales and marketing representatives having entered plea deals in federal courts across the country.

In various media reports, former sales rep Patty Nixon, turned whistleblower, explained how the company lured doctors into prescribing the drug for patients who didn’t need it, known as “off-label” marketing. She stated “It was absolutely genius, it was wrong, but it was genius.”

“What I did, I was instructed to do, I was trained to do,” Nixon, who was fired by Insys after becoming adverse to the company sales activity, “she felt guilty about lying on the job” and decided to not return to work. “It was wrong, but it was genius.”

In a statement related to the Kapoor indictment, Nixon said, “I wasn’t sure this day would ever come. It is a great day for justice. A great day for the victims. Dr. Kapoor is an evil man. I give a lot of credit to all the prosecutors and all the people who worked on bringing him to justice. It’s what needs to be done.”

She said that if requested to testify against Kapoor, “I absolutely will.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subsys is 100 times stronger than morphine, and was approved by the FDA to treat patients with cancer who had “breakthrough” pain, that is pain which other narcotics are not addressing. This was soon seen as not the way Insys Therapeutics wanted to market Subsys and they developed a very direct and highly profitable marketing campaign that placed “profits over patients” and contributed to the current opioid crisis across the USA.  They Insys executive suite quickly ramped up a sales and marketing campaign that reached from Alabama to Alaska, two states where the Subsys sales skyrocketed, all based on the company sales efforts

The role of the sales staff was to make sure Subsys got into the hands of as many patients as possible, whether they had cancer or not, and this included using illegal and unethical methods of getting doctors to write massive numbers of Subsys prescriptions for questionable pain complaints.

Related: By Mass Tort Nexus- “THE OPIOID CRISIS IN AMERICA” – How Insys Theraputics, Inc. Sold Stock And Killed Americans At The Same Time With The Help Of Doctors

THE REIMBURSEMENT UNIT FRAUD

“My job responsibilities were to contact insurance companies on behalf of the patients and the doctors to get the medication approved and paid for by their insurance company,” along with several others.

Subsys is not cheap prescription, a 30-day supply costs anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 and the fraudulent scheme depended upon insurance approval.That was Nixon’s job, along with the other employees in the Reimbursement Unit, who were tasked with the role of misleading insurers into believing the drug was “medically necessary.”

“I would say, ‘Hi, this is Patty. I’m calling from Dr. Smith’s office. I’m calling to request prior authorization for a medication called Subsys,” taken form the Unit’s management created insurance approval script.

The Unit staff would often pretend they were calling from the office of a cancer doctor to increase the chances of approval, as well as using specific diagnosis codes, likely to be approved, whether the patient had the condition or not.

The Reimbursement Unit role at Insys, was making sure that patients got approval for Subsys, which includes fentanyl, from insurance companies. “The unit job responsibilities were to contact insurance companies on behalf of the patients and the doctors to get the medication approved and paid for by their insurance company,” said Patty Nixon.

“We told complete bold-faced lies” as part of the part of the ongoing fraudulent Insys business model.

CHRONIC PAIN LEADS TO DEATH

One of the patient who was prescribed Subsys was Sarah Fuller, who was prescribed the drug even though she didn’t have cancer. In her case, it was chronic neck and back pain from two car accidents. And when her doctor prescribed Subsys, an Insys sales rep was sitting in the room with them.  Within a month, Fuller’s prescription was tripled. And 14 months after she started using the drug, she was found dead on a bedroom floor.

What killed her? “Well, technically fentanyl,” Fuller’s mother said. “But a drug company who couldn’t care less about a human life. And, apparently, a doctor who didn’t either.” Sarah’s Cherry Hill, New Jersey physician, Dr. Vivienne Matalon, had her medical license suspended over the “off-label” prescribing that resulted in the death of Sarah Fuller, but denies responsibility for her death.

Sadly, Fuller is not alone, FDA reports of adverse events and possible related complications include hundreds of deaths.

Attorney Richard Hollawell who represents the Fuller’s family, is suing everyone involved in marketing and prescribing Subsys to Sarah, and said, “This is serious stuff that we’re dealing with … People need to finally be held accountable.”

Insys has denied any responsibility and insists it shouldn’t be blamed for how doctors prescribe their products. The corporation is not currently facing criminal charges and is still selling Subsys — some $240 million worth of Subsys just last year. But the company is under investigation by various states across the country regarding how the “off-label” marketing campaign came to be the company business model..

KAPOOR ADDED TO PRIOR INSYS INDICTMENTS

Dr. Kapoor will appear in federal court in Phoenix Thursday, and will have to appear in federal court in Boston, where the indictments originated, at a later date. The indictment, unsealed today in Boston, also includes additional allegations against several former Insys executives and managers who were initially indicted in December 2016.

“In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has reached crisis proportions, Mr. Kapoor and his company stand accused of bribing doctors to overprescribe a potent opioid and committing fraud on insurance companies solely for profit,” said Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb of Massachusetts. “Today’s arrest and charges reflect our ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis from all angles. We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable.”

Subsys, a fentanyl sublingual spray from Insys Therapeutics

“As alleged, these executives created a corporate culture at Insys that utilized deception and bribery as an acceptable business practice, deceiving patients, and conspiring with doctors and insurers,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “The allegations of selling a highly addictive opioid cancer pain drug to patients who did not have cancer, make them no better than street-level drug dealers.”

Brian Kelly, a lawyer for Kapoor, said, “My client is innocent and he intends to fight these charges vigorously.”

In response to an early 2017 investigation, Insys stated that charges against individuals discussed in the media related to “previously disclosed investigations and litigation and  Insys continues to cooperate with all relevant authorities in its ongoing investigations, including our federal investigation which began in and around December 2013.”

“We are committed to complying with laws and regulations that govern the promotion of our products and all other business practices. We continue to emphasize ethical behavior within our organization and pursue opportunities to illustrate that our company’s mission is to put patients first.”

The October 26, 2017 indictments were the first naming John Kapoor, but also include enhanced charges against the entire executive board of Insys Therapeutics, Inc. who were already facing long prison sentences and financial penalties in one of the most far reaching and aggressive US Department of Justice investigations into the root cause of the “Opioid Crisis” that is gripping all areas of the United States.

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States Across The Country Are Targeting Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

Is Big Pharma The Target of Litigation Modeled After Tobacco Litigation?  

Mark A. York,  October 6, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Mass Tort Nexus) A bipartisan group of states and their attorneys general have started massive joint investigations into the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. These drug makers are the largest in the country and are considered at the center of the current national addiction epidemic. This includes the executive suite and boardrooms of all opiate manufacturers, as the policy and direction for the massive growth in opiate prescriptions could not have gone unnoticed by executives at the opiate drug makers, for close to 15 years. Record earnings, bonuses and SEC filings all point to “boardroom knowledge” of ever increasing opiate focused sales efforts.

Opiate Rx MDL 2804 Parallels State Claims

The state actions are now parallel to the September 25, 2017 filing of a “Motion for Consolidation in “The Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804”, with the Joint Panel for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL 2804, where numerous Midwest counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia as well as the city of Birmingham, Alabama joined together to file suit against the 3 largest distributors of opiates in the country, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. Also named in the suit are the primary Big Pharma opiate manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo, Teva and others as additional defendants.

Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania have launched full investigations, following the lead of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids. Other states are also beginning the review of opioid manufacturers and will decide if they are joining the others in filing legal claims.

“We are looking into the role of marketing and how related corporate business practices might have played into increasing prescriptions and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Its currently unclear exactly how many states are involved in the probe, though officials said a majority of attorneys general are part of the coalition. Among those leading the probe is Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican.

Officials did not specify which companies were under investigation, but suffice it to say, any company that made and marketed opioids products over the last 10 years will be scrutinized.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Separate lawsuits by attorneys general in Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and Mississippi, are pursuing opioid-related cases as of September 2017, with many more following suit very soon. They are have targeting Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), Endo International Plc(ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and Allergan Plc(AGN.N) as well as leaving the door open to add additional defendants, based on the information revealed in the ongoing multi-state investigations.

New Jersey Files Against Insys Therapeutics

New Jersey recently filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc over marketing scheme for its Fentanyl product known as “Subsys”, and the massive off-label marketing campaign for uses other than FDA approved “cancer pain” treatments. The entire executive board of Insys was indicted in December 2016, along with many of its sales staff and numerous doctors across the country, with at least to physicians being sentenced to 20 years in prison by the US District Court in Alabama. See Insys Therapeutics, Inc Executives Indicted Over Fentanyl Sales Campaign.

Teva in a statement said on Thursday it is “committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids.” Representatives for the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their products as safe and effective and saying that they carried warning labels that disclosed their risks. The specific allegation focus more on “off label” and doctor targeting and marketing practices that repeatedly encouraged over-writing of opiate prescriptions for patients with minimal pain issues.

Ohio Filed First

In announcing his office’s lawsuit in May 2017, Ohio Attorney General DeWine said the drug companies helped unleash the crisis by spending millions of dollars marketing and promoting such drugs as Purdue’s OxyContin, without consideration of the long term effects of the related addiction, which Purdue was absolutely aware of throughout the years of profits that now total billions of dollars.

The lawsuit said the drug companies disseminated misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids as part of a marketing scheme aimed at persuading doctors and patients that drugs should be used for chronic rather than short-term pain.  Pain centers and medical practices across the country started writing an ever increasing number of high dose opioid prescriptions for what would be considered low to mid-level pain treatment.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including those in several California counties, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio, three Tennessee district attorneys, and nine New York counties have also filed individual suits.

It is unknown at this time, if all of the legal actions filed by governmental entities across the country will be consolidated into MDL 2804, which may be the most effective way to manage the soon to be massive number of legal claims against Big Pharma and their long term opiate profit centers. Municipalities across the country seeking to recoup the enormous financial losses brought on by the opioid crisis.

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TESTOSTERONE MDL 2545 “ANDROGEL” JURY RETURNS $150 MILLION VERDICT IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES FOR “FALSE MARKETING” AGAINST ABBVIE WHILE FINDING NO FAULT IN “HEART ATTACK” CLAIMS

On July 24, a jury in Chicago federal court found in favor of plaintiff Jesse Mitchell, ordering drugmaker AbbVie to pay $150 million in damages for allegedly falsely marketing the benefits of its Androgel testosterone therapy drug, while not holding the company liable for a heart attack suffered by the plaintiff.  This was the second of bellwether trials in a massive class action involving thousands of claims against AbbVie and other drugmakers, including Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline. The thousands of complaints have been consolidated by the country’s federal courts, and are being heard as a multi-district litigation Testosterone MDL 2545 AbbVie “Androgel” Briefcase,  under U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawsuits dating to 2014, allege the testosterone replacement drugs were not only useless, but actually harmful, even though approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat testosterone deficiency, the claims allege the companies also falsely marketed the drugs to treat a variety of other conditions, including diabetes, AIDS, cancer, depression and anxiety. The lawsuits further allege the drugmakers invented a nonexistent condition called “andropause” or “low T,” which could be treated by testosterone replacement.

However, plaintiffs claim the drugs are not only ineffective for these off-label uses, but they increase the risk of heart attack, blood clots and stroke.

Judge Kennelly selected eight of the cases to move forward to trial. The first bellwether trial, in which plaintiff Jeffrey Konrad, claimed Androgel caused a heart attack, ended in a mistrial in June.

This trial where Mr. Mitchell, of Oregon, similarly asserted the drug had caused his heart attack, proceeded to the jury in July and after days of testimony and arguments in court, however, the jury refused to find AbbVie responsible for Mitchell’s condition.

The jury did say they believed AbbVie had falsely misrepresented the benefits of its testosterone therapy drug to Mitchell, and ordered the company to pay punitive damages of at least $150 million.

A lawyer for Mitchell did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Cook County Record on Monday.

In a brief emailed statement, a spokesperson for AbbVie noted “the jury found that Androgel did not cause any damage.”

“We expect the punitive damage award will not stand,” the statement said.

The verdict came over the strong objections of AbbVie, whose lawyers argued in court that they should not be held responsible for Mitchell’s condition or use of the drug.

In a motion for judgment filed July 17, the company noted even a doctor called by Mitchell’s attorneys conceded Mitchell was already at high risk for cardiac disease, without ever taking Androgel, because of his “several cardiac risk factors … including a 34-year smoking history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, obesity, a family history of heart disease, and lack of exercise.”

AbbVie also argued the jury could not find it had failed to warn of the risks of Androgel under federal rules and the company claimed the evidence demonstrated Mitchell had never heard of Androgel or any of its alleged “false claims” before his doctor prescribed it for him. And, AbbVie argued, Mitchell’s doctor “relied on his own training, experience and medical judgment, rather than anything said by (AbbVie), when making treatment decisions for Mr. Mitchell.”

“Finally, any suggestion that (Mitchell’s doctor) was somehow deceived or misled by (AbbVie’s) risk information is belied by the fact that he warned Mr. Mitchell of the potential cardiovascular risks,” with Judge Kennelly taking the motion “under advisement” on Friday, July 21 and subsequently denied. Resulting in the 2nd recent verdict against AbbVie, after having been found liable in the Depakote birth defect trial where the Illinois jury awarded $15 million to plaintiff Christine Raquel, after having been prescribed Depakote for bipolar depression.

Jesse Mitchell was represented the firms of Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Rafferty & Proctor, of Pensacola, Fla.; the Alvarez Law Firm, of Coral Gables, Fla.; Seeger Weiss, of New York; Goldberg & Osborne, of Tucson, Ariz.; Heard Robins Cloud, of Santa Monica, Calif.; and Douglas & London, of New York.

AbbVie was defended by the firm of Dechert LLP, of Princeton, N.J.

Organizations Listed:

AbbVie
1 N Waukegan Rd
Lake Bluff, IL 60044

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
219 S Dearborn St
Chicago, IL 60604

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Here’s Why Law Firm Social Media is a Waste of Time

By Jayne Navarre.

Attorneys were slow to catch the social media wave. But once it looked safe to go into the water—the firm next door was doing it—a majority followed.

  • Legal marketers got busy setting up a firm presence on Facebook and Twitter—featuring Super Lawyers, seminars, and seasons’ greetings.
  • Those with greater resources played with Instagram and Pinterest. The goal was to get likes, shares, and comments, with the reward being greater exposure and business opportunities.

But then something very disappointing happened. The “organic” social media produced by law firms—the stuff that was supposed to create conversation and conversion—appeared to be mostly seen and applauded by a handful of their own employees, lawyers, and a few real-life friends and relatives.

Don’t take my word on that, there is evidence.

According to the April 2017 Greentarget and Zeughauser Group survey, social media ranks at the bottom of “most valued content created by law firms.” That’s right, just 4 percent give a damn about your tweets and status updates.

Yet a whopping 91 percent of marketers, who were also surveyed, report they are “investing in social media”!


More attorneys are using digital and social media to reach clients and prospects. To discover if you’re outpacing your competitors, take the new 2017 Attorney Social Media & Digital Marketing Survey. It takes only 2 minutes.


To be fair to the 91 percent, marketing budgets differ from firm to firm. According to the April survey, blogs were seen as a “credible source of legal, business and industry news and information” by 75 percent of in-house counsel compared to 65 percent in 2015. But it is likely that many marketers consider blog writing, editing, posting, and maintenance to fall in a firm’s social media bucket, and thus the 91 percent. I hope I am not being generous.

Still, the April survey authors suggest that firms’ “methods for client alerts and newsletters are part of well-established practices, whereas [emphasis added] social media sharing and amplification is more time-intensive and expensive.” If true, it certainly begs the question: What are attorneys getting in return for their time and expense?

Kill organic social media for the enterprise

Avinash Kaushik blogs at Occam’s Razor. If you’re unfamiliar with his blog or the scientific rule of Occam’s Razor, here’s the essence: The simplest of competing theories are preferred to the more complex.

I assure you that he’s one of the good guys and someone attorneys should be listening to, on a variety of levels and topics.

More recently, Avinash challenged marketers to stop wasting enterprise resources on “organic social media”—defined as the kind where you post meaningful things about your firm to build brand loyalty. (And “hope” for increased sales to justify your efforts.)

He writes, “You can imagine how gosh darn excited I was at the advent of Facebook and Twitter (first real social networks). There were a billion people there, spending a meaningful amount of time on these wonderful platforms. Excitedly, brands could have a presence (a “page”) where they could give meaningful updates (info-snacks) to be a part of the organic conversations people were already having by the tens of millions. Daily meaningful brand connections would be converted into brand familiarity, shifts in brand perception, feeding brand loyalty. #orgasmic”

And goes on to say that: “None of the above transpired….”

How does he know? He says all the data you need to see, that your organic social media on Facebook and Twitter has tanked, can be found in three public bits of information. You don’t need to understand analytics, you don’t need to dig, you don’t need to hire a consultant. You just need to look.

Crunching the numbers

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say your Facebook page has 6,000 warm bodies who “like” you. (Probably a stretch for most law firms, but I’m going for a round number.)

  1. Applause Rate. Your most recent post—congratulating newly anointed Super Lawyers—has 50 likes or emotions (I heart this post!). Divide 50 by 6,000 to get your applause rate, which is…drum roll…a paltry .00833 percent. (“A painful stab in the heart.”)
  2. Conversation Rate. Now take the total number of comments on your post—seven—including “Congratulations,” “Well-deserved,” “He gets his work ethic from his mom!” and etc. Divide that by your universe of 6,000 warm bodies and your conversation rate is a glass shattering .00116 percent.
  3. Amplification Rate. This is the number that confirms whether you truly added value on a human scale or merely “pimped” your company. Let’s say you had three shares—one from a proud dad, one from a best friend, and one from the marketing manager who is paid to do it. Three divided by 6,000 is 0.0005%. Heart stopping, right?

With this simple analysis—the potential to engage 50 weeks +7 days +3 people per post—you can decide what part of your marketing budget you should allocate to your enterprise social media. The answer is zero.

Wait, you say that’s not fair? Alright, let’s add up the applause, conversation, and amplification rates on your Twitter and Instagram, and, being generous, your firm-branded blogs. Let’s compute the monthly, quarterly, and yearly totals. There, is that any better?

To be clear, marketing and enterprise brand building differs from business development (sales)— but, you need both. Arguably, a personal Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter presence in deft hands can be an effective tool for “networking” for business, but, it’s obvious to me that organic social media for the enterprise isn’t moving the needle—I’ve looked. (Please correct me if your firm is an outlier.)

Are your social media platforms useless? No, says Avinash. From an advertising perspective, the couple billion people on Facebook and hundreds of millions on other social channels are an audience that might be of value to your law firm. Should you kill your organic social strategy and switch to a paid social media strategy? Yes.

Buy advertising

Don’t waste your money on fuzzy organic social media goals. Buy advertising from Facebook. Buy advertising from Twitter, Instagram, and yes, LinkedIn. All of which can give your social media strategy purpose.

“Your [social advertising] strategy can drive short and medium-term brand and performance outcomes,” says Avanish, “You can set aside the useless metrics like impressions and 3-second video views. Set aside hard to judge and equally useless Like and Follow counts. Measure the hard stuff that you can show a direct line to company profit. Define a purpose for the money you are spending.”

I completely agree. In tests I’ve run on organic posts versus promoted paid posts, paid always outperforms. Sure, the click ratio on a paid post can be dismal—particularly if you’re not using best practices—but at least you are reaching a new audience. Even one inquiry from a potential client is a better result than a mom or brother liking your Super Lawyers post.

I suggest that you need a purpose, a strategy, and a plan. When you get that plan, then, you need great writing. Writing a brief is very different than writing something the public, even in-house counsel, wants to read. I know “we’re” getting better according to the April survey, but not quite very good is not where you want your law firm to be.


Jayne Navarre
Jayne Navarre

Jayne Navarre + Associates has more than 20 years’ experience working exclusively with law firms on strategy for content and communications. The company is forward thinking, entrepreneurial, and works with some of the best law firms, both in the U.S. and internationally. Contact 786-208-9108, jln@lawgravity.com, or http://jaynenavarre.com.

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A Closer Look at Advertising Response within a Guaranteed Cost Structure

The three co-founders of Amicus Media Group: George Young, Bill Tilley and Chad Nell.
The three co-founders of Amicus Media Group: George Young, Bill Tilley and Chad Nell.

By George Young, Partner, Amicus Media Group

In a world where consumers are presented with an overwhelming choice of television, radio, and online platforms, how can a law firm be assured that media time purchased to generate cases will perform? What if media time is purchased and no one calls or responds?  Performance media addresses ROI concerns, as this model to media depends on paying for the responsive results, instead of the media time itself.

Performance media addresses ROI concerns, as this model to media depends on paying for the responsive results, instead of the media time itself.

By taking a closer look at performance media, we can begin to understand why law firms use this model to reach potential clients at a guaranteed cost and improve profitability with less risk.

Performance Media as a Model of Predictability

Comparing the cost structure between different models of media buying, a more predictable model emerges through performance media campaigns. In the traditional model of dedicated media purchased for attorney advertising, the law firm provides a budget to the advertising agency for buying media time to drive calls or leads to the firm from people who have been harmed by a dangerous drug, medical device, or any other type of injury case.  The typical cost to media for generating a call will likely fluctuate from week to week, as media spot cost, call response, and other factors will ultimately affect the lead cost and unpredictably impact the campaign effectiveness.

While the performance model for attorney advertising similarly requires the law firm to provide a marketing budget to the media agency the key difference is that the cost to generate a call or lead from advertising is secured at a guaranteed rate for an actual response.  As the financial risk is shifted from the law firm to media, the onus to perform is placed squarely on the media running the campaign. The risk of budget burning for subpar results is mitigated for the law firm, due to the potential client response cost being known.  

As a clear example, consider the traditional media cash buying model of advertising where the law firm commits to specific times and networks and is required to pay for media time regardless whether the target audience responds. In contrast, if the same advertising spot runs as a national or regional performance campaign and no one responds, zero dollars are owed. Certainly, performance media offers a reliable model by guaranteeing a more predictable cost of advertising.

How and Why Networks offer Guaranteed Cost Structures

While only a few agencies can offer performance media, this type of advertising holds several key advantages for the networks as well as law firm advertisers.  Performance media provides stations the capability of adding revenue spots to the daily inventory of avails on demand, where they can fill unsold schedule openings, or replace last minute cancellations.  These media avails can be provided to law firms at a much lower cost compared to advertisers that buy specific media time slots.  Consequently, performance media allows networks to monetize inventory that historically would likely go unsold and therefore air non-revenue broadcasts such as public service announcements or promotional spots. Performance media offers a flexibility in programming that ensures every possible commercial break is monetized.

Where Performance Media Campaigns Work Best

Performance advertising is also called “Opportunity Media”, as television and radio networks may place the spot during any time of day where an open avail (opportunity) in their schedule exists.  As such, traditional prelogs (schedules indicating when spots are expected to run) and post logs (schedules showing when spots went live) are not provided by the networks.   Instead, each week the networks bill for the total number of calls or leads generated by the previous week’s advertising.   While performance marketing can deliver significant cost savings to law firms compared to specific advertising time purchased, there are instances where traditional media cash buy may propose a more reasonable option. An example where a traditional media cash buy might be strategic would include instances where a law firm requires complete control over spot placement or online display of the advertising.

Considerations when Launching a Performance Media Campaign:

Each year law firms across the country use performance media to save millions of dollars in acquiring mass tort, personal injury, and other types of cases.  

Performance Media Attributes include:

  • Campaign Launch Timeline:  Expect about 2 weeks to get the phones ringing and 4-6 weeks for full call volume to emerge.  
  • Refundable Deposit:  A refundable deposit is typically held on account equal to about three weeks of billing.
  • Billing:  Television networks bill each Monday for the previous week’s calls/leads. The marketing agency remits same day payment.   
  • Cancellation: 21-day notice is required to pull a campaign for any reason.

Another necessary consideration for the success of either a traditional cash buy or performance media advertising campaign is managing the intake of audience responses. Although most of the avails (and thus most of the calls and leads) will be generated during daytime hours, and correspond with operating hours of the law firm, the intake center activity extends beyond business hours.  Commonly, the law firm engages a 24/7/365 legal intake call center solution, as potential clients often see or hear an advertisement during the daytime hours, and later decide to respond by calling at any time of day or night.

For competitive law firms, performance media provides a cost-effective solution for finding new clients through a marketing channel that removes much of the risk of lead generation performance from the law firm and shifts the risk of results directly to media. Its unique combination of scalability, favorable cost per intake economics and predictability makes it a powerful strategy in the face of fierce competition for case acquisition.


AMICUS MEDIA GROUP, LLC

Amicus Media Group is a full-service media agency comprised of some of the nation’s most respected professionals in media, communications, marketing, finance, and practice management to offer law firms the highest level of expertise in case acquisition and practice growth. 

Amicus Media Group offers direct response marketing services for lead generation campaigns. Agency services span from negotiating rates, broadcast planning and scheduling, media buying, campaign management, performance marketing, intake and creative production. Holding key relationships with top media executives throughout the nation, Amicus Media Group establishes a combined multi-decade prowess in legal marketing.  

To contact Amicus Media Group call (888) 700. 1088 or email George Young at GeorgeYoung@AmicusMediaGroup.com or Chad Nell at ChadNell@AmicusMediaGroup.com

 

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Slides & Recording for Webinar: Mass Torts Update for Plaintiff Attorneys

5 Mass Torts for Plaintiff Attorneys Today

Broadcast August 31, 2016

Visit http://goo.gl/rOG9qt to see the slides and recording of this program.

John Ray
John Ray

What you will discover

For lawyers starting a Mass Torts practice, picking the right cases and having an effective law firm marketing campaign are essential. Our presenter John Ray will update plaintiff attorneys about 5 key Mass Torts:

  • New Pradaxa docket in Connecticut
  • IVC Filter
  • Xarelto
  • Fluoroquinolone antibiotics
  • Emerging: Roundup litigation

A Mass Tort is ordinarily a product liability case where hundreds of plaintiffs file suit against a pharmaceutical company. These cases are typically collected into one of 300 federal multi-district litigation dockets (MDLs).

Mass Torts is a multi-billion dollar immature market, with economies of scale and only a single barrier to entry. You have already overcome the barrier if you are admitted to practice law.

About our presenter

John Ray has been a leading consultant to the Mass Tort attorneys for more than a decade. His unique skill sets make him well suited to both teaching and consulting in the Mass Tort arena.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brenau University in Atlanta and started a pharmaceutical and medical device company right out of school, selling it in an eight-figure deal when he was 35.
John’s tenure in the pharmaceutical and medical device field allowed him to gain an in-depth understanding of FDA regulatory matters, as well as, a thorough understanding of the science and epidemiology related to gaining FDA approval to market pharmaceuticals and medical devices. John’s inside knowledge of how “Big Pharma” operates gives him a unique perspective and skill sets that are very useful to Mass Tort plaintiff firms.

When John brought his “insider knowledge” and business acumen to the Plaintiff Mass Tort space, one of the first things he recognized was a lack of common terminology and well-defined metrics. John realized that firms were expressing the same concepts, but were not using the same terminology. As a result, John set out to define common terms and create methods for formulating important metrics for use by Mass Tort firms when evaluating litigations. The terminology and metrics John Ray developed are now commonly used by major Mass Tort Law firms.

John is highly sought after and writes sought-after white papers about both current and emerging torts. The accuracy of his analysis of emerging and ongoing litigations is unmatched.

The fact that John not an attorney has proven to be an asset. John thinks like a business person, employing creative problem solving and possesses an extensive set of business skills and industry-specific knowledge. He assists Mass Tort firms in making sound business decisions before and during any litigation they are involved in or are considering becoming involved in.

John is an expert at evaluating cases and looks at each tort as an individual “investment,” which can be quantified resulting in risk mitigation for you and your firm.

Contrary to popular belief, adding Mass Torts to your practice is not gambling, nor is there a secret society of Mass Tort attorneys. The only information you lack to be successful in the practice of Mass Torts is a business plan. As John says, this type of law is 80% business and 20% law. If you understand the business principles of Mass Tort law, you will be successful.

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When Should Mass Tort Marketers Change Strategy?

ntl-summit-tsg-presentation-2-3-2016-2-638Adam Warren of The Sentinel Group® in Temecula, CA, published an article saying it is crucial for attorneys to understand the ever-changing landscape of advertising and to keep a strong base of available TV time to generate lead/case acquisition flow.

“We have found tried and true strategies can fall short when developing mass media and local media plans for many mass tort campaigns and other single-event cases this year. Where we have overcome this challenge is having the ability to move quickly and precisely allowing us to pivot to alternative media strategies that are still efficient and cost-effective,” Warren says.

“Identifying fragmentation and TV programming changes per major events can be your next epic media win if you already have your pivot move in place. Make sure your marketing firm maintains a diverse breadth of experience and media portfolio and change will be your friend.”

Click to read more.

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