Lessons From a $224M Lawsuit: A Letter from Tonya Winders
The following is a letter from Tonya Winders, President and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network.
Imagine being personally sued for $224 million. Imagine sitting in a federal courtroom for three weeks facing charges of restriction of trade for simply exercising your First Amendment right. Imagine the relief of hearing the jury unanimously declare your innocence and having the ability to look your accusers squarely in the eye and offer forgiveness. On March 27, 2018, I had the ability to experience all of these things and more.
Throughout this journey, I have learned many lessons and feel compelled to share three of the most important – and how they impact the future of Allergy & Asthma Network.
First, stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone. Since 2014 when United Allergy Services sued the Network and me, more than a dozen co-defendants settled before ever stepping foot into a courtroom, most agreeing to permanent injunctions which limit the ability of allergists to ever proclaim a standard of care in allergy when speaking to policymakers and patients. I knew we needed to go the distance to do the right thing no matter how costly. Our Board of Directors and staff proved stronger than we ever dreamed in our resolve to respect and protect patients.
Next, never back down to a bully, even a seemingly bigger and stronger one. United Allergy Services once earned over $100 million per year and employed over 1,000 people across the U.S. By all appearances, the Network, with its $2-3 million annual budget and staff of fewer than 10, should never have won this case. Thankfully, we relied on our unwavering responsibility to our members and the vision of ensuring quality care for all.
Finally, never compromise your First Amendment right. As patient advocates, we have always acted to protect patients and petition the government on their behalf. The issue of fraud and deception in allergy testing and immunotherapy was no different. We acted independently to speak up, write articles and share them with federal decision makers solely to protect the relationships we have built during the past 33 years.
We will use these lessons to continue educating and advocating on behalf of the 60+ million Americans living with allergies, asthma and related conditions.
Today marks the beginning of Asthma Awareness Month and World Asthma Day. We ask that you join us in the continued fight to end needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions through outreach, education, advocacy and research. We need your help to rebuild the reserves spent defending our First Amendment right. We are writing to ask you to step up and demonstrate the core values of respect, responsibility and relationships by investing in the future of Allergy & Asthma Network.
Thank you in advance for your generous support and please do not hesitate to call upon me as we continue to help millions Breathe Better Together!
All my best,
Tonya A. Winders
President & CEO