the industry came under attack. As a result of the administration's effort to overhaul federal healthcare delivery, pharma became a frequent and easy political target. But, pharma did not passively accept the criticism—companies actively came together en masse to defend the industry's deep, rich history of innovation in both paid and free media campaigns. Pharma highlighted the positive aspects of the industry and revealed how large research efforts led to a polio cure, how it was addressing a rampant AIDS epidemic, and how drug prices supported research. These efforts worked. Throughout the '90s, many consumers began to see pharma as a powerful force, capable of addressing, and even overcoming, the seemingly intransigent medical issues of the day, such as AIDS, cancer, and chronic diseases.Time to Collaborate
Pharma had earned a reprieve. Fast forward to present day, and the same concerns about drug access, safety, and affordability are back with a vengeance. Even Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of PhRMA, agreed that companies need to take a more collaborative approach to bettering their image. Earlier this year, he told Pharm Exec (March, 2005), "It's complicated, but if I can summarize it for you, it's to do what I can in collaboration with our member companies to rescue and restore the reputation of what I consider national treasures—companies that produce the medicines that keep us all alive."
Plenty of recent consumer research shows that consumers currently do not trust the industry to deliver unbiased health messages. Their most visible concerns include:
Pharma needs to address these concerns as an industry. Big Pharma has proven that it can deliver state-of-the-art communications initiatives behind dozens of specific, branded products coming to market. But, it must do more to support broader communications initiatives that cut across all diseases and the industry as a whole. Because of economic reasons, many companies simply don't have the marketing dollars to support both kinds of initiatives. Further, with so much riding on how physicians perceive branded products, there is little money left over to explain pharmaceutical innovations and the marketing process to the ultimate end user, the patient.
Address Patients' Concerns
Pharma must realize that patients can also influence prescribing behavior and serve as spokespeople for brands. But first, pharma must help patients to look beyond high drug prices, sensationalized DTC advertising, and drug scandals. Pharma can start to rebuild credibility by developing a thorough, well-organized campaign that cuts across the entire industry—and then deliver it via paid and free media to the consumer.