Pharmitzvah 2014

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  • 04/14/2014

Last week’s 14th annual meeting of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was a memorable pharmitzvah. Smart folks, old friends, challenging panels, and a bevy of good speeches on challenging topics.

And while there was the appropriate serving of rah-rah, there was significant substance alongside the Beltway style.

This was best summed up by Ian Read (Chairman and CEO of Pfizer) in his inaugural remarks as the incoming Chairman of PhRMA. It wasn’t a Morning in America oration. Read shared his concern about the industry’s failure in getting the message out about “the value we generate.” His key message, “We need to fix the misperception gap.”

Specifically he talked about the industry’s need to broaden the conversation from the economic performance of biopharmaceutical companies to the value that accrues to society and called for a “dialogue with society.” Bravo.

He asked, “Where are the headlines?” They’re not about societal value – and they need to be. There’s a strong story to tell. It’s not happening. And it needs to, because minus that narrative, nothing the industry wants to make happen (with government being a focus since the meeting was in Washington, DC) will be possible.

Read called for “industry speaking for itself.” After all, if you can’t be your own best advocate, you’re suspect in the minds of many – and rightfully so. He spoke to “better ideas and clarity” versus “more tactics.” That’s a foundational shift and a timely one. Innovators win when the discussion is about the future.

Read called for transparency in data sharing and physician relationships. Doing it is one thing – and most members of the pharmaceutical brethren are doing the right thing. But it’s equally important to tell the industy’s various constituencies what programs are in place, what they are designed to do, and how they work. Transparency mustn’t be allowed to be a cudgel used to beat innovators but a tool in it’s own communications arsenal.

Value to society. It was Read’s mantra. It needs to be the industry’s manifesto.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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