Our pharmaceutical industry needs some real help with its image. Step back and think about the way healthcare works. Doctor visits can be broken down into history, tests, diagnosis and then a determination as to which drugs to use to manage the problem. What percent of doctor visits happen without discussion about a pharmaceutical product? Hospital work is all about which drugs to take to aid surgery, control pain and prevent reoccurrence. The vast majority of what happens in healthcare is about selecting the right drug to fix or deal with a problem. Call me biased, but our industry is really at the center of it all. Where is the respect?
Take a look at the New York Times report last week on the Third Circuit Court decision against an agreement made between a pharmaceutical company and a generic company over patent issues. Read the story closely and note the slant against our industry. Even the generic companies that are at least equally involved are treated better. This case merely sets up the potential for Supreme Court action and yet it is already viewed as a disaster for our industry. Even Senators Grassley and Kohl are quick to weigh in once again against the industry. Again, is there always the presumption the industry is doing something wrong?
I really don’t want to dig too deeply into the “pay to delay” agreements as the issues have been well documented over the last few years. But note even the name used for these agreements seems to be biased against the industry. If these agreements were so wrong there would not be a controversy, there would be consensus in the courts and the agreements would never happen. That is not the case as there are many complexities and all sides need to be explored.
The piece of the puzzle that is so conveniently underplayed in these agreements is the fact that our industry and our economy are driven by innovation. Innovation is fueled by intellectual capital and this needs to be protected by patents. Without patents there would be no innovation, no economy and quite frankly chaos. Why is it that there is not a stronger voice to protect the patents that protect our innovation? I recognize that not all patents are created equal but they are all patents issued by the US Patent Office. How can our industry continue to invest in this environment of uncertainty? You see the world just seems to want all the industry’s investment, intellect and products but doesn’t want to help assure an adequate return for the risk.
Take a step back and look at how this issue is just part of a much bigger picture. The world feels DTC work is just done to convince patients to use products that physicians would not otherwise prescribe. Our industry is the only one in the world where social media work is so heavily controlled. When our scientists are trying to analyze complex data the outside world immediately says we are hiding the data. The airwaves are constantly filled with “bad drug” lawyer ads with no balance and seemingly no control over what they can say. Our messages are heavily controlled yet others on TV, radio and the Internet are making all kinds of crazy promises for products and foods that have never really proven to the FDA that they do anything. Companies are sued for off label promotion while the medical community has made these uses almost standards of care. I could go on and on but it is obvious that when it comes to our image we have big time problems.
In the past, our industry always seemed to want to stay low key as profits were good and our market caps were some of the highest on Wall Street. This is not still true today and it is time to change our strategies and begin letting the world know what we do and how we do it. The compliance and integrity programs we operate within are second to no other industry in our country. The amount of investment and innovation we pour out daily in hopes of improving lives is something for the world to recognize. Our products are proven to help people live longer and better lives. Let’s show the world what we are all about.
Perhaps the image program could focus on what healthcare would be like if there were no drugs. How would doctor visits end if there was nothing to prescribe? Why would you go to a hospital if after all the testing there were no drug tools to use to fix the problems? I know it is a little absurd but then so is the fact that we do so much good for society and have such a low image. Let’s fix it! Let’s be proud of what we do.