Prescription for positive publicity
We’ve all become accustomed to seeing the new Direct to Consumer (DTC) product advertising from pharmaceutical companies. I won’t give my opinion on the pros and cons of these. But there’s also a growing number of general image ads calling attention to the industry’s charitable assistance programs, the amount of new research being conducted and the many breakthroughs in treatments and even cures that have resulted. All good and all true, and also all clearly directed at improving the industry’s public image against a negative backdrop of continually escalating drug prices. As noted by Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhrMA) organization, “The key is our ability to communicate, advocate and educate patients, physicians, health policy makers and the general public about this industry and how it works and the work it does.” And I agree with that also.
But beyond laboratory research and clinical trials, what does the general public, or healthcare practitioner for that matter, really know about what is involved in bringing consistently efficacious and safe drug products to market? Are they aware of how much more difficult this has become with the exponentially growing number of aseptically processed and packaged therapies? Do they have an appreciation of how hard the FDA and the industry work every day to make sure this is the case? Were I not myself professionally involved in studying the process, I’m quite certain I would not.
What we are all very knowledgeable about, however, are the consequences of inadequate attention to product-safety practices, regulation and enforcement activities-because we see it repeatedly casting an unwanted light on the food industry. Truly, here is an exception to the old adage that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
In sharp contrast, however, rather than needing to hide from bad publicity, the pharma industry can instead showcase its ongoing commitment to product and patient safety by touting its investment in contamination control-in facilities, process equipment, monitoring tools, employee training, product testing, documentation and everything else that has been necessary to ensure the production and delivery of safe pharmaceutical products-and along with it, educate the public that there are very real costs associated with accomplishing this.
If the bio/pharma industry is actively looking for ways to improve its image, this would seem to be one obvious success story that could-and should-be told.