Monday, October 25, 2010

Pharma: Is It Time To Answer the Critics?

It’s a question that’s begging to be asked: How can pharma get its groove back? Bad news, much of it self-inflicted, continues to besiege it. There’s the Pharmalot DOJ whistleblower’s story, which said that eight of the ten largest healthcare fraud cases involved drug makers. Says Pharmalot: “The scrutiny has been eating away at pharma’s reputation and gradually forcing changes in business practices. But attorneys say many more lawsuits are in the pipeline and the willingness of the federal government to pursue them - selectively - remains unabated.”

Then there is the ProPublica story. Reporters at ProPublica used industry-compiled databases containing the names of physicians and other thought leaders who have spoken on behalf of pharma and checked them out. What they found: Not all the thought leaders are worthy of the job. Some weren’t board certified. Others had “serious sanctions."

It sounds ugly. But if you do the math, it’s a small percentage: of 17,700 thought leaders checked out, 1.4% -- 250 — were found to be tainted in some way. (The story says more than 250, but doesn’t give a specific number.)

On the one hand: Some industry members interviewed by ProPublica reporters admitted that they didn’t do the background checks that they should have.

On the other: That 1.4% wasn’t in the story, but it doesn’t matter. The PR damage continues to be inflicted -- from within, and without.

In 1970, an American man or woman could expect to celebrate a 71st birthday. In 2003, that person could expect to live another 6 years or so. Pharmaceutical, Biotech & Medical Devices are a huge reason for those extra years. But few people – including pharma itself – seem to acknowledge that truth. Kinda of like some in Congress & the administration who do not take pride in the Healthcare Reform act. While Americans do not like this large entitlement program, in general we believe overall healthcare of the US population will be more improved.

Maybe it's time for pharma and others to speak up? Maybe. Being silent sure hasn’t helped the industry (or even the Democratic Congress for that matter).

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