Here's an interesting article from Luke Timmerman in today's Xconomy. In it, he discusses how Big Pharma has gone from most trusted to very much untrusted in the public's eyes -- in basically a generation. And, he offers Big Pharma some unsolicited advice with a 12 step plan that could earn them back into the public's good graces -- or so they could hope.
Actually, I don't really have an issue with companies striving toward many/most of the suggestions described in the article. In some cases, the suggestins were a bit too simplistic/banal, i.e make better drugs. This of course is true but it is not self-evident as to how one might get there. Regardless, some of the notions around cost-effectiveness data, greater transparency, better pricing models -- all have relevance and WILL be necessary steps in any industry recovery. You do have to admit you have a problem though as step one.
I was taken back a bit by the quotes/attitudes attributed to Thomas Stossel, translatinal medicine at Brigham & Women's and a staunch industry defender. He commented that the industry has to "fight back" harder at its critics -- since presumably the critics are just making all the bad stuff up or are exaggerating all the wrongs. As if no pharma companies ever introduced a Vioxx or Avandia, or sold off label, or bribed public officials, or withheld negative data. That's all a figment of our imagination I suppose.
My father was a nuclear engineer. It reminds me of the responses dished out by the nuclear industry when critics had something negative to say about safety, potential danger or nuclear waste disposal. Yes, some of these critics are kooks. But you still need to educate the majority of the public if you don't want the kooks to take over. Aggressively defending your policies without regard to any merits by the other side is shamefully short-sighted. This response is similar to the Catholic Bishops last week saying that the gay marriage lobby was outmarketing them and they just had to be more vehement in their defense of marriage to make it all go back in the closet like the good ole 50's. If only we could go back in time, that's the ticket!
Clearly if you want to earn back trust, you have to be trust worthy. That means partnering with critics to address things that can be changed for the mutual betterment of all. It means education. It means reassessing your failed policies and revising them with something that works and is sustainable. And you have to be vigilant that you keep the path.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Dec 9th 2013.