What happened to pharma?

The pharma industry has been good to me and my wife.  It has provided a good living and allowed me to grow professionally and personally.  Yet, as an Editor for PM360 and working on a consulting team I have been challenged to either remain quiet when I see clients, focusing too much on things that aren’t important to patients versus listening to our audience at a time when a lot of people are going to need good healthcare.

I entered the ethical pharma industry in 2000 as a marketing person with Lilly.  I learned, that to produce great online marketing programs, that we had to listen to patients.  I developed the first online community to support the launch of Sarafem and was lucky to be recognized enough to land a spot on the Cialis launch team.

The awards that I won were not as important as the feeling that I had that we were actually helping patients choose a treatment option.  I heard, in focus groups, how woman struggled with a severe form of PMS called PMDD and how they seemed to bond within the research groups.  I was lucky to have worked for some great managers who allowed me to “pitch my case” for what I wanted to do as well as some great regulatory and legal people.

By the time I left Lilly, 6 years later, something had changed.  Lipitor was the first huge pharma brand and other pharma companies took notice.  The race was on to create the next and the next blockbuster to sustain the company’s growth.  Soon sales became more important than patients and a philosophy of “getting the sale” trumped common sense.

I still see a lot of very questionable practices being used by companies that “have to make their numbers” .  There was a time when I would stay quiet but that time has long gone.

Readers of this site know that I have been critical of the industry, but it’s because I love it so much that I feel we need to point out its failings. I have lost clients because of this stance, but my conscience is clear.

I will never ever stop being the voice that puts patients first and I won’t be part of anything that is illegal.

It was refreshing to see the CEO of Merck resign the President’s council based on his inaction against blatant racism, but I was very disappointed that pharma executives remained silent during the recent debate around the ACA.

There are people within the industry who love it as much as I do and they are trying in earnest to implement change.  As a realist, I also know that there are a lot of recycled people who are holding on to the old way of doing business.  For example the people that Amgen hired drove out the very people who put Amgen on the map.

If you love working in pharma than never give up trying to change it for the better.  The feeling of helping other people who have health issues makes it all worthwhile.

 

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