Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has been one of the most trusted brands in the pharmaceutical industry given its long-running history of offering quality products and creating dynamic working conditions for its employees. However, following the US opioids crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives, drug companies, such as J&J are facing legal challenges that could force some entities out of business. The company is expected to face growing legal suits challenging its role in promoting the opioid crisis with damages amounting to billions of dollars. Starting from Ohio where J&J was ordered to pay 20 million USD to Oklahoma where a judge made a landmark ruling directing the company to pay 572 million USD for fueling the opioids epidemic (Hoffman, 2019), many more such cases are expected to be filed in the future. Even though court rulings can be contested, the company will ultimately be forced to pay certain amounts of money in damages. This aspect affects the brand name ruining the reputation of the company with adverse business effects including making huge losses.
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Ethically, J&J faces numerous challenges as consumers and other stakeholders start asking questions about the morality of selling drugs that ultimately lead to a health crisis. The company might want to rethink its strategy and reevaluate its role in fueling the opioids crisis, which has killed close to half a billion people in the last two decades. The underlying ethical issues will involve questions about the morality of selling drugs that are known to cause more damage than good to people’s health. This issue raises questions about the overall J&J’s business ethics model and whether it can be trusted anymore to advance the health status of its customers.
Based on the J&J Credo, the firm’s key stakeholders in the order of priority are customers, employees, the community, and shareholders. The Credo starts by highlighting what the company terms as its first responsibility. It states, “We believe our first responsibility is to the patients, doctors and nurses, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services” (J&J, n.d., para. 1). It then goes on to indicate that employees are highly valued because they are responsible for the company’s success. Therefore, they are compensated fairly, assured job security, fulfillment, and purpose, and their merit is recognized. Communities within which the company operates come third on the priority list of J&J’s stakeholders. The organization seeks to promote healthy living by ensuring that people, both locally and internationally, have access to care services and products. It also prioritizes environmental conservation and the protection of natural resources. The final responsibility of the company, as indicated in the Credo, is shareholders. Like any other business, J&J seeks to maximize its investors’ capital and make profits from its business operations.
However, given the legal settlements related to the opioids crisis in the US, it appears that the priority of stakeholders is inverted with shareholders occupying the first spot and consumers coming last on the list. If the company cared so much about its customers, as claimed in the Credo, it would have addressed the ethical issues surrounding the opioids drug business. It could have championed a change in business strategy to ensure that such drugs do not cause more harm than good to its consumers. However, the opioids drug business is a cash cow for these companies, especially given the addictive nature of the products. An addicted customer base is good for business because the organization is guaranteed return purchases, which creates a continuous stream of income. This assertion explains why the company has continued to make unprecedented profits year after year at the expense of a suffering population from the opioids epidemic. Therefore, it suffices to argue that to J&J, making profits for the maximization of the shareholders’ investment comes first in the list of its stakeholder prioritization. Consumers come last, but the company has the opportunity to change its approach and uphold the principles outlined in the Credo.
J&J should take specific and urgent steps to remedy the situation involving the allegations leveled against its involvement in fueling the opioids crisis. Every action should be customer-centered because consumers have suffered significantly. First, the company’s chairperson should appoint a team of experts to look into the claims that its products contribute to the health crisis in the US. Meanwhile, it should immediately warn its consumers about the alleged adverse effects associated with the products under question. In this line, it should conduct extensive advertisement campaigns to educate people about the potential dangers of consuming such drugs. Meanwhile, the company should suspend the manufacturing of the drugs until an independent scientific study is carried out to establish the correlation between the said products and the crisis. Finally, it should recall the implicated drugs in a move to rid the market of the same and set a good example for other players in the industry. These actions will restore the consumers’ first position in J&J’s Credo statement.
Hoffman, J. (2019). Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $572 Million in landmark opioid trial. The New York Times. Web.
J&J. (N.d.). Our Credo. Web.