The hypocrisy of pharma trade magazines

QUICK READ: Our industry is inundated with trade magazine pseudo awards that don’t mean a damn thing to the patients we serve. The dirty secret is that these trade magazines use these awards as a business tactic to draw in more readers and ad dollars.

When I first started to work in pharma I was honored to receive recognition from trade magazines. That delusion faded quickly as I witnessed the awards for what they really were; an end-run to acquire more pharma business in ads.

I’ve been invited to speak at many conferences but those days are over. Now conferences are a way for sponsors to make money and for vendors to establish new contacts.

The Pharma Voice 100 is just the latest example of hypocrisy.

Over the last year, I have been involved in ongoing research for a consumer health magazine. One of the areas that we are soliciting feedback is Pharma’s reputation. The feedback has been pretty consistent in that people trust pharma to develop new drugs but they don’t trust pharma to price these drugs fairly.

The pandemic has once again shown that pharma has a habit of stepping in it. While almost 40% of our population is out of work pharma has chosen not to advertise a way to help patients get the drugs they need when money is tight. When people want to understand right/wrong when it comes to COVID-19 pharma has chosen to ignore their needs.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know from personal experience there are people within our industry who are trying to implement change rather than receive pats on the back for ads or ideas that have little to do with the public we serve. The “glory” hunters are the ones that hurt our industry.

Glory hunters go on LinkedIn to say they are “humbled” to be recognized, blah, blah, blah. Glory hunters rotate within the industry as they climb the corporate ladder. Glory hunters could care less about patients, for them it’s all about their personal brand.

If you really want or need recognition from the industry I suggest you get up off your ass and listen to people in focus groups. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the best quality any pharma marketer can have is empathy.

To me the best reward was listening to patients talk about how they are living a better life because of a drug that I helped market.

Our industry is in the midst of a pandemic that’s going to change consumer behavior forever yet you would never know it. DTC ads are still running with the same message as before this pandemic. Websites still look like a medical brochure and agencies are still hosing clients with bad advice.

I sent a copy of the Pharma Voice 100 over to a respected writer at a daily business newspaper. His response was “is this a joke?”. When I told him it was not his response was “I have too many thoughts right now and I have to think of a way to express them eloquently”.

Until our industry recognizes that we have a lot to work on, such as supporting PhRMA who is supporting Republicans to ensure profits remain high, we can’t take the next leap. When the industry says “we want to make a profit on a COVID-19 vaccine” without ensuring transparency of data and pricing that ensure people will be able to afford their medications I’ll keep telling like it is.

To the people who are fighting for patients, keep fighting but realize that the high ranking executives in your company are interested in only one thing “sales dollars” and personal compensation.