How should pharma respond when attacked?

largePOST SUMMARY: John Oliver took on big pharma, breaking down exactly how pharmaceutical companies spend a fortune ($24 billion just last year) marketing directly to doctors.  It’s been going viral on the Web, so how should pharma respond? Trust, we all talk about it, but it’s hard to earn trust in an era when Congress is divided, Wall Street has run amuck and the middle class is taking it on the chin.  It’s hard to respond with facts when there are some many trolls out there who distrust the pharma industry which is why it’s so important to earn the trust of patients one at the time, everyday, every minute.

First, some facts..

PhRMA members have invested more than half a trillion dollars in R&D since 2000, including an estimated $51.1 billion in 2013 alone. The impacts of this spending and the sector’s broad support for biomedical research ripple across the economy.

Biopharmaceutical Sector Most RD Intensive Sector_0

The link between use of prescription medicines and spending on other health care services was recently acknowledged by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In 2012, the CBO announced a change to its scoring methodology to reflect savings in medical spending associated with policies that increased use of medicines in Medicare. It is estimated that the cost of suboptimal medicine uses, including non-adherence, under-treatment, administration errors and under-diagnosis is between $100 and $300 billion annually.

  • High Blood Pressure: Treating patients with high blood pressure in accordance with clinical guidelines would result in fewer strokes and heart attacks, preventing up to 89,000 deaths and 420,000 hospitalizations annually and saving $15.6 billion a year.
  • Diabetes: Improving adherence to diabetes medicines would result in an estimated reduction of more than 1 million emergency room visits and hospitalizations annually, for potential savings of $8.3 billion each year. In a separate study, increased patient adherence to diabetes medicines saved $7 for every additional $1 spent on medicines.
  • High Cholesterol: Research has shown that statin therapy reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by an average of 19 percent. Over one year, this reduction in bad cholesterol was associated with roughly 40,000 fewer deaths, 60,000 fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks, and 22,000 fewer hospitalizations for strokes in the U.S. From an economic perspective, those prevented hospitalizations translated into gross savings of nearly $5 billion.

Obesity is a big factor driving soaring rates of chronic disease in the United States, with many more Americans chronically ill than their European counterparts, a new study finds.It’s an expensive problem, too: According to researchers, chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease account for some $100 to $150 billion in healthcare spending in the United States each year. Had the media looked the mirror as consumers themselves are partly to blame for rising health costs?


Researchers found that doctors shown summaries of hypothetical drug tests lost their confidence in the results when a pharmaceutical company had paid for the studies. Doctors were less willing to prescribe the drug under study, and they even downgraded the very scientific methods they would praise when drugmakers hadn’t backed the research.

Now the bad newsnone of these facts mean a damn thing if the consumer perception of the pharma industry is in the dirt. We can talk about how the industry saves lives, how only nine cents of every healthcare dollar is spent on prescription drugs, but if consumers don’t believe you’re farting in the wind.

Pharma should not hide when attacked, but we all have to acknowledge that what we say in our defense is not going to be heard in an age when everyone with Internet access is an opinion leader.  Above all we need to work harder to earn trust and demonstrate everyday that we provide benefits to patients and society.