Media sensationalism and pharma

  • Today the media attracts readers with sensational headlines,but rarely researches data in-depth to provide readers with unbiased content.
  • Stories attacking drug prices continue to ignore the real problem with healthcare costs such as the costs of preventable health problems and rising costs of a hospital stay.
  • Pharma tries to fight back via PhRMA, but because they are the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry their credibility is very low.
  • The only way to win the hearts and minds of people is by a “human” approach to drug marketing and putting a personality on big drug companies.

The headline in the Times says it all “Diabetes Patients at Risk From Rising Insulin Prices“. The story goes on to say, in a sub headline, “A Yale study found that one in four patients admitted to cutting back on insulin use because of cost. The consequences can be deadly”.

Insulin prices are a touchy subject with patients: the cost of insulin more than tripled — from $231 to $736 a year per patient — between 2002 and 2013, according to a new analysis. The increase reflected rising prices for a milliliter of insulin, which climbed 197 percent from $4.34 per to $12.92 during the same period.  Of course, what we are reading about are list prices not the actual prices that patients pay, but still the headlines make it seem like this is a crisis.

I have been a vocal critic of rising drug prices and frankly, these rising prices are inexcusable.  However, one has to ask why the patients interviewed for the Yale study didn’t take advantage of drug company savings for people who can’t afford their medications?

According to the study “patients who reported an income between $25,000 and $100,000 were more likely to be cutting back on insulin compared with those who said they earn over $100,000”.  This, to me, indicates, that drug companies need to rethink the requirements for receiving assistance.  Today $100K in some cities, with a family to support, is not a lot of money.  A drug company that steps forward with a “no patient will go without our product because they can’t afford it” is sure to win over hardened hearts.

Of course pharma has been fighting back via social media with PhRMA.  The problem is that most people are aware that PhRMA is the lobbying voice for big pharma thus their credibility is quite low.

Pharma has to, at some time, start on a program to win patients and view them as valuable customers.  This means talking with patients like people and providing real solutions not “corporate speak”.