Today, there were numerous reports on the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations’ (IFPMA.org) release of their new guidelines for industry practices. I applaud the group and note their guidelines now seem to be in agreement with the most recent PhRMA guidelines. Obviously, this is a step in the right direction, but the concern is, does it help the image of our industry? Does it raise the level of trust?
If you want a real wake-up call, just Google “trust and the pharmaceutical industry.” A recent Harris Poll shows only 11% of consumers really trust what drug companies say. This has been consistently low over the last decade, even though there have been numerous sets of guidelines and regulations enacted. Many large teaching hospitals are banning drug representatives. Academia is stopping their physicians from giving non-CME talks to other providers. State and Federal prosecutors seem to spend more money and effort prosecuting the industry than they do the drug dealers in our cities. There is a trust issue!
Is it just a coincidence that the financial problems seen in the industry and the massive layoffs over the last decade have coincided with these trust concerns? I don’t think so, and quite frankly, I think this needs to be the primary mission of the industry if we are to flourish once again.
The solution, like the proverbial stool, might have three legs. One leg, is to continue to update and reinforce guidelines like the ones issued yesterday. This is only the bare minimum and really doesn’t make society feel better about the industry. The outsider reads these guidelines and thinks that if all these things need to be stopped they must be pervasive today.
The second leg involves going well beyond these “must do” guidelines. It involves acting every day like we do on our best day. This would include all the positive things the industry needs to continue doing for patients and society, locally and around the world. We need to take these things to an even higher level.
Finally, the third leg is about communication. How can an industry that prides itself so much on marketing and PR really be so bad at telling the world what we do right? Or who we are? To build trust, the world needs to know the things we do that make us trustworthy.
Perhaps the crux of the problem is that we really, in our hearts, believe that we are an honorable industry doing the right things and can’t believe that others don’t feel the same. Acceptance of this reality may be the first step towards big solutions that go well beyond industry issued guidelines. Let’s focus on fixing the trust with big effort and big ideas and the industry upswing will follow close behind.