This post, written by Gordon Platt of Gotham Media, is the final 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, here, and here.
How did pharmaceutical companies – and, more broadly, the health sector in general – become the bad guy?
This was the key question posed by Eric Dezenhall as the panel’s discussion drew to a close. As a follow-up, and perhaps more importantly, he asks whether this negative association is a state that will continue.
Even with a broad range of opinions across the diverse panel, no one could offer a definitive answer.
Allen Waxman chose to focus on the human element of the industry, emphasizing the importance of care over capitalism. Some of the conduct he has seen around the sector fails to live up to the high standards required by the health sector. “We’re not selling shoes,” says Waxman, “this is medicine and it’s about earning trust.”
On the media side, Peggy Peck identifies egotistical leadership and an unwillingness to provide straight answers as key contributors to pharma’s reputation problem. Peter Pitts provides a counterpoint to Peck’s concerns, saying that members of the pharmaceutical industry must stand up for what’s right and be clear about their processes. Explaining the research and testing phases, as well as the expensive failures that arise along the way to a successful drug, can help people to better understand the industry. As long as this openness is rooted in a true concern for the consumer’s health, reputations can be repaired and the broader industry could recover.