Off the Hook? Pharm Exec's Annual Press Audit - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Off the Hook? Pharm Exec's Annual Press Audit


Pharmaceutical Executive


What's On Top for 2012?

Notwithstanding the favorable implications of this year's audit, there won't be much of an afterglow. The Republican presidential primary debates presage a harsh fall campaign, where pharma can anticipate increased attention as a consequence of both parties' sharply contrasting views of reform. The economy is still recovering from recession and invites a hard look at areas that can reduce expenses for the consumer, such as the out-of-pocket cost of prescription medicines. Price referencing for Medicare Part D drugs is certain to surface in the candidate debates and media coverage.

Even if Congress doesn't seek a quick fix, pharma will be facing dual challenges from patent expirations and new efforts to force the industry to contribute to long-term deficit reduction through price and access concessions. Patents for several blockbuster drugs with significant sales have expired (Merck's Singulair on Feb. 3) or will be expiring (Bristol-Myers Squibb's Plavix on May 17) and will cost the industry about $54 billion in sales. Meanwhile, the healthcare reform act (PPACA) includes rebate increases for drugs sold to government health programs; for example, Medicaid rebates are rising from 15.1 percent to 23.1 percent.

Product Shortages Generate More Coverage

Frustration due to the unavailability of products used to treat patients in hospitals is likely to lead to more newspaper coverage in 2012. Although the focus of scrutiny has been the profiteering by some suppliers, the underlying cause is problems with manufacturing, many of whom are single-source generic suppliers. It is also true that shortages are a consequence of the de-emphasis of products because they are older and less profitable. Generic producers can sometimes fly under the media radar because of their small size, but big players with a generic footprint such as Novartis and Pfizer will undoubtedly be asked through the press to furnish solutions to the problem.

All in all, 2011 looks to have been an anomaly—and 2012 is shaping up as an interesting year that will keep corporate press offices busy.

The issues of FDA and drug safety reveal the continuing media scrutiny of the drug approval process, cases of misuse of prescripton drugs, the impact of adverse events, and consumer lawsuits related to drug safety.

A consistent finding is that headlines tend to be more negative than positive for the industry. The good news over the past two years, however, is that the proportion of negative headlines declined considerably from previous years.

George P. Sillup, is Associate Professor, Arupe Fellow, and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing Department at St. Joseph's University. He can be reached at
Porth is Associate Dean, Arupe Fellow, and Professor at St. Joseph's University. He can be reached at
. SJU students Leo Porth, Kelliann Rooney, and Elizabeth Fox also contributed to this research.


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