SUMMARY: What roles should agencies play when they do business with a pharma company whose business practices are questionable? For most, the answer is to look the other way because the wheel has to keep turning to get bigger.
After a two-week trial, jurors in California ordered Gilead’s Kite Pharma to pay $752 million to BMS’ Juno Therapeutics and its partners, which sued in 2017 for patent infringement. This is nothing new for Gilead who continues to make a fortune of the work of others. What’s so funny is that this week a pharma agency posted their support of Kite Pharma on LinkedIn because they obviously have their business as a client.
As pharma companies have become more reliant on outside agencies their businesses have grown. They’re opening offices in more cities and hiring more people which means they need more business to survive.
Of course, not all pharma companies are on the wrong side of issues and helping patients but Gilead is a poster for a bad pharma company ever since they purchased the rights to the first Hep-C drug which was developed by a scientist supposedly working for the government.
As a consultant, I have declined business with some companies because I don’t like their ethics. It’s time for agencies to do the same thing. Agencies should not do business with a client strictly for the sake of getting paid. They need to be part of the change this industry needs rather than worship pharma clients to get more business.
Fear of not achieving business goals
Uwe Hook a client director at media agency said in his departure “We all used to come up with innovative ideas, but now we don’t. The bravery in work has disappeared.” Agency frustration at procurement departments that drive prices down is one culprit. Another is the constant need for results. “Innovative work is cut immediately because you don’t know how it’s going to perform,” said Hook. “So you just repeat what you did last year. It wasn’t this way always.”
Agencies, being in the business that they are, often find that their destinies are intertwined with their clients even if it means following them down a dark path.
Agencies are too big now and need continued pharma business to support their costs. Pharma company donated money to Republicans who oppose efforts to curb drug pricing? We can rationalize that. In fact, they continue to rationalize every bad business decision pharma makes. For agencies, it’s business as usual because after all, I need my paycheck.