Restoring Public Trust in Pharma - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Restoring Public Trust in Pharma

Pharmaceutical Executive


So how do we put these values to work in our business?

Let me give you an example: When our representatives talk with doctors, we require that they share the extensive knowledge they have about our drugs—including both who should and, quite importantly, who should not take our medicines. To reinforce this requirement, we're changing the way we provide bonuses to our sales professionals. In the past, like other companies, we based the variable portion of their compensation on the volume of prescriptions they obtained in their sales territory. Now, we're rewarding them for providing the information and support our customers need and that is in the best interest of the patient.

Integrity is doing the right thing; transparency is being open about what we do. Some of the financial relationships and industry practices from previous years are no longer viewed as appropriate, and so we've changed them. Other practices that the public sometimes views as inappropriate are actually important to good healthcare. For instance, we believe properly engaging doctors to share their knowledge with other physicians in peer-to-peer education programs helps them keep up with advances in medicine.

We also believe that physicians should be fairly compensated for their time and expertise. Yet some patients, government officials, policymakers, and even some in the medical community have questioned the integrity of these relationships. So to provide assurance on the integrity of these relationships and to be transparent, we began voluntarily posting our payments to US healthcare professionals for speaking and consulting services on our website.

Our fourth value is respect. We all know the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. We market a drug that treats erectile dysfunction (ED), a legitimate medical condition that affects the lives of many men. It is also a condition that many people are not comfortable speaking about. And it certainly is not a condition parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents want to explain to children while watching a football game on Thanksgiving.

This is where respect comes in. While a practice may be perfectly legal and even acceptable according to industry codes, we have to respect the wishes of the society we serve. At GSK, we are very thoughtful about where we advertise our ED medicine so we can reach the patient where they are, rather than blanketing the airwaves, in order to avoid advertising in places that are easily accessible to children.

For our industry to regain public trust, we must constantly examine how we interact with our customers, how we communicate with patients and providers, how we fund activities, and how we share information. We also need to do a better job of informing those we serve about how we operate now. We also need others in healthcare to stand with us and embrace a values-based approach to our interactions and recognize and respond to how we've changed.

By doing these things, we can assure the public that our industry—an industry that has brought so much benefit to so many—is conducting its business with focus on the patient, with transparency, with integrity, and with respect. In this way we will be worthy of trust.

Deirdre Connelly is President, North America Pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline. She can be reached at


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