Commentary by Zebersky Payne Shaw Lewenz, LLP
When dealing with insurance companies and big pharmaceuticals, patients often feel as if their best interests aren’t a priority. As major corporations pursue profits, patients get left out in the cold, their welfare neglected and their rights disregarded. A recent example of how the needs of patients can be tossed aside is the insurance dispute between the major pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and an insurance company, Humana.
In recent years, GSK has frequently popped up in the news. Currently the company is under investigation after a few of its employees were charged with bribing doctors in China to prescribe certain medications. The company has also gotten into trouble for criminal marketing practices, such as pushing antidepressants on patients who are under aged. The dispute with Humana, however, involved GSK’s negligence regarding a dangerous diabetes drug.
A few years ago, GSK settled with thousands of patients who had suffered from taking the drug Avandia for diabetes. As it turned out, taking Avandia put patients at a significantly higher risk of severe cardiovascular side effects, including strokes and heart attacks. After getting hit with lawsuits over the death and suffering caused by the drug, GSK agreed to pay patients and their families much-needed compensation, to help the victims heal and pay for steep medical bills resulting from Avandia complications.
So how did GSK get into a dispute with the insurance company, Humana? Humana, as it turns out, was the insurance provider for a fraction of the Avandia victims, via the Medicare Advantage program. Humana sued GSK for the money it lost having to pay for the medical care of patients who had suffered from the drug’s side effects.
GSK, in turn, argued that participation in the Medicare Advantage program should not give insurance companies the right to file for a lawsuit; the company was concerned about having to pay both the patients and the insurance company.
Now here’s the real kicker – in the middle of the dispute, the flow of settlement payments to Avandia victims froze. This freeze in settlement payments did not affect only the patients covered by Humana, which would have been bad enough; it affected all the victims. These included elderly people in bad health who depended on settlement money to pay for their medical care.
Eventually, the settlement payments started going out again, but in the meantime the patients lacked the funds they desperately needed, and many passed away before receiving any of the compensation owed to them. The patients, whose well-being should have been prioritized, were instead treated as collateral damage in a battle between major corporations. And it still isn’t 100% clear why the dispute had to lead to frozen settlement payments.
This story provides yet more evidence that people need attorneys on their side who can advocate for them and stand up to the biggest companies, for as long as it takes, not resting until a fair outcome is achieved and carried out; big companies rarely do the right thing without continuous legal prodding. When contacting us, you’ll receive assistance from attorneys with a nuanced understanding of insurance law, extensive experience confronting big companies, and a passion for helping people get fair compensation.