Maybe their voices would change from one in which profits rule to one in which we all say “this has to change”

KEY THOUGHT:  I love working in the pharma and healthcare business.  I don’t know any industry where your efforts can help so many people live better and longer lives.  Although I have been critical of the industry as of late, but it’s only because I want to try and inspire people working within the industry to be the change it so much needs.  Talented people can’t continue the exodus from this industry at the current rate. We need employees, and consultants, who are willing to disrupt the status quo.

When I started working in ethical pharma marketing with Eli Lilly almost 18 years ago, it was a wonderful time to be a pharma employee.  DTC marketing was starting to explode with the range of new drugs that helped people do everything from managing their cholesterol to controlling their allergies.  Then I learned a hard lesson.  While at Lilly we unexpectedly lost patent protection on our biggest selling drug at the time.  The company initiated a plan called Year X which included significant layoffs.  Suddenly we all had a meeting with our division head pop-up on our calendar in which we would be told if we were being retained or let go.  You can’t imagine the stress this situation causes to people.

While at Lilly I worked with some very bright and talented marketing people.  I learned from them as they learned about Internet marketing from me.   Now, today, 90% of those people have left the industry.  Some left on their own because of dead end career paths, others were let go as drugs came off patent.

I was lucky to be selected to present at a DTC conference outside Washington DC and again met a lot of very good talented people.  However, today they are ALL gone as well.

Yesterday I was being interviewed by a reporter who asked “how can you consult in an industry you have been so critical of””.  My response was twofold; first, the rank and file people that I work with have praised my thoughts in private and 99% agree with what I have had to say. Second, it’s because I love the industry so much that I want to try and motivate others to be the change the industry so much needs.  I have turned down clients who I thought were unethical and will continue to do so.

When the combined salaries of the top pharma and health insurers exceeds $650 million, while more patients can’t afford medications something is dreadfully wrong.  When some prescription drugs, which have on the market for a long time, have price increases over time of triple digits we no longer serve patients but instead serve Wall Street.

I know that, in private, a lot of people in healthcare are wondering if their company really believes the company slogans on the wall in the lobby of their buildings. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the industry “can’t go on record” because it would mean immediate termination.

The bottom line is that there are still good, hard working, people in our industry. However, there are also too many people that are only interested in their paychecks, titles, and maintaining the status quo.  These are the people that are causing irreparable harm to our beloved industry.

Last week one of the stories that was circulating online was the drop in cancer deaths in the US.  In addition to early detection a big reason is the new drugs that are being developed every day by pharma companies.  However, will every patient who needs these life saving drugs be able to receive them?  Probably not, but yet CEO’s continue to cash their huge paychecks.

Maybe more executives in our industry need to attend research with the public.  If they did, they would stories of how hard and frustrating it can be to navigate our healthcare system.   If they did, maybe their voices would change from one in which profits rule to one in which we all say “this has to change”


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