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The risk and reward of truth in the pharmaceutical sector

The risk and reward of truth in the pharmaceutical sector

This post, written by Gordon Platt of Gotham Media, is part of a series reporting on “Pharmaceutical Challenges 2016: Managing Crisis in a Digital Age” an event at which leading pharma and media specialists gathered to discuss the role of reputation in the industry. It was held at the Harvard Club in New York City, and sponsored by CARMA, a global media intelligence provider. The previous posts can be found here, here, and here.

Transparency was a theme running through the panel discussion, with all participants having something to say about the advantages and issues involved.

From the perspective of Eric Dezenhall, founder of Dezenhall Resources, there is a limit to what pharmaceutical companies can and will say. Even a statement that consumers might consider straightforward, such as confirming that a drug is safe, is a major hurdle for legal advisors in the pharma sector.

Beyond voluntary statements, he also says there are regulatory considerations that restrict transparency. “When you come under attack, the FDA is in control… you can’t say certain things.” Dezenhall explains that this can come across as a lack of transparency, whereas in reality the company’s hands are tied.

On the other hand, Medpage Today editor Peggy Peck believes the relative truth that defines the industry is the underlying cause of most controversies. “If a company rises on relative risk, it will fall on relative risk,” says Peck, emphasizing that companies who stick to an absolute truth will rarely experience extreme challenges to their reputation.

For Allen Waxman of EISAI, Inc., it comes back around to education once again. The relative truth is inevitable, to some extent, because consumers have a limited understanding of what safety should mean. Most drugs have side effects and the tolerance of individuals to handle them could easily change what they consider to be safe.

The pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity here to explain and educate, which provides the foundation for transparency and building reputational capital.

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