On the Right Pathways - Pharmaceutical Executive

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On the Right Pathways

Pharmaceutical Executive


Don't Wait, Communicate

In light of the strong industry response, innovator companies must establish strong, consistent, and frequent communications regarding biosimilars. Many biologics have already lost patent protection, and while the timing of the first biosimilar approval is unclear, it's never too early to communicate. Well-crafted, strategic messages will provide stakeholders with valuable information on biosimilars and bolster a company's leadership within the biopharmaceutical community.

Here are some key strategic communication activities to consider:

Scenario planning and communications time lines Legislative, regulatory, and competitive environments should be carefully monitored, and strategic planning should account for all potential scenarios. Specific communications activities should be timed to coincide with developments in Congress, FDA, and the market.

Internal communications networks and committees Form committees, in advance of legislative actions, that are empowered to disseminate timely, actionable communications within the organization. Companies should not overlook opportunities to share executives' role in driving policy with internal audiences.

Professional communications Innovator companies' positions regarding biosimilars should be made clear to physicians, pharmacists, and other professionals with prescribing privileges to reinforce the scientific pedigree of biologic products.

Third party coalition building Medical professional societies and trade groups are important allies in defending the primacy of biologics. Coalitions with these organizations should be nurtured and strengthened.

Advocacy relations Consumer groups and patient advocacy organizations are also key allies to cultivate.

Policy communications Government relations departments should be involved in efforts to communicate companies' positions on follow-on biologics to key policy constituencies.

White papers Industry and company positions, supported by sound scientific evidence, can be compiled in white papers delivered to key audiences.

Q&As Answers to anticipated questions from the media, medical professionals, consumers, and other key audiences should be developed for use by internal and external spokespeople.

Media-trained spokespeople Communications professionals should facilitate formal media training for their company spokespeople to prepare for questioning from the media, investors, and other external audiences.

Proactive media relations Relationships with journalists should be cultivated to create a receptive media environment for the company's position in advance of any legislative or market developments. The company should provide something of value, in the form or an executive interview or a video/tour of a biologic facility, in order to facilitate the relationship.

Investor relations Support from the investor community can be vital to strengthening companies' positions on biosimilars and other key issues.

Safety issues Company officials should prepare standby statements in advance of anticipated issues. For example, postmarketing studies of biosimilars may allow class safety issues to resurface. The media may cite the reference biologic in articles.

As the debate over biosimilars intensifies, innovator companies will need to be both savvy and aggressive in advancing their positions. The companies that are able to frame the debate in terms of a commitment to quality, safety, and sound science will be better positioned to compete in a market with biosimilars.

John F. Kouten is CEO of JFK Communications, a PR firm for biotechnology, pharma, and medical technology companies. He can be reached at


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