Health Strategies Gift Giving Ban...


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Health Strategies Gift Giving Ban...

  1. 1. Strategies Health Practice n e w s l e t t e r Published by Makovsky + Company Volume 23/Number 6 For more information on Makovsky + Company’s Health practice, please visit the power of specialized thinking Gift Giving Ban: Boon or Bust for Communicators? Ties between pharma and physicians have been monitored for decades. The new twist is that every patient, physician and policy maker is now under the ethical magnifying glass. Can benign “branded” pens unduly influence prescribing pat- terns? Does free lunch make physicians consider one medical product over anoth- er? Will industry-sponsored continuing medical education lead health profession- als to favor one clinical path? Trend or Legislative Reality Regardless of economic connection, the underlying premise behind keeping pens out of sales reps’ bags is sound—conflict between science and industry cannot ex- ist. Traditional marketing worked for phar- ma in the non-digital world—educate the District of Columbia created payment Problems—Solutions? physicians, provide treatment data and, disclosure laws to track money and in- Pharmaceutical companies are embrac- of course, impact sales. That model was kind gifts physicians receive from pharma. ing greater transparency, offering volun- based on a regulatory and media environ- Congress is debating passing the Physi- tary disclosure, and PhRMA issued new ment that no longer exists. cians Payment Sunshine Act of 2009 call- member guidelines. Curbing industry ing for a searchable database of all phar- involvement is evident at major medical Promotional items such as pens, free food maceutical spending by state and doctor meetings with scaled-back exhibit booths and honoraria are under intense scrutiny. in an effort to curb undue influence. and missing promotional items. But, more Countless op-ed articles call for transpar- than AWOL pens and name badge lan- ency and limitations in marketing practic- When one constituency focuses on a per- yards, the twofold concerns are the right es, including a call to action by prominent ceived wrongdoing because of small gifts to guaranteed expression and honing a physicians in JAMA (April 1, 2009 “Profes- to physicians, it has a negative effect on new connectivity model for ‘patient prob- sional Medical Associations and Their Rela- multiple levels. We need to return to our lem—clinical solution.’ tionships With Industry: A Proposal for Con- communications roots focused on life- trolling Conflict of Interest”). altering medicine helping health profes- Rehabilitating relationships and percep- sionals and consumers make better, more tions demand we move from one-way Five states (MA, ME, MN, VT and WV) and informed choices. promotion toward two-way communica-
  2. 2. tion. Establishing dialogue, creating relationships, giving brands 3. Social media creates community a platform is where public affairs experts step in. Pharma is still finding its way with social media. Some companies use it for promotional purposes while others treat Facebook-like Five Thoughts for Greater Customer Connectivity communities as traditional one-way vehicles. But, these tools are best used as intended—driving interactive dialogue between 1. Embrace transparency to strengthen advocacy trust chosen peers. 2. Be a solution to the customers’ social-health problem 3. Listen—create the landscape for discussion Many companies fear handling potential reportable events result- 4. Explain brand science early ing from social media, yet a Nielson study found only 0.2% of com- 5. Cultivate relationships with advocacy groups and media ments on these sites rise to a reportable adverse event. Though concerned about uncontrolled conversations, pharma is well 1. Transparency equals trust served relying on professionals skilled at developing dialogues— Transparency is the heart of productive communications. The their communications department and outside agency partners. regulatory environment requires that public affairs professionals are part of the marketing process. We have the opportunity to 4. Stakeholders influence each other reassert patient care as the focal point by engaging in transpar- Misunderstood science, medical notable naysayers and top-tier ent dialogue about science and its care impact. When “reminder” reporters signal big trouble. For years pharma focused on posi- items outweigh clinical trial updates, articles published and CME tive scientific results—if the results were good, communications calendars, pundits question the intent of hidden information. were open. The current environment suggests companies re- consider investing in explaining brand science. Though results One disgruntled employee or patient has inordinate power to may not be available, explaining protocol early—pluses and share his or her point-of-view as virtual “facts.” With reporters minuses of possible outcomes—can reduce misunderstanding. competing for airtime with “guilty before innocent” eye-grabbing Company medical directors must be accessible public affairs bloggers, the burden of truth falls on pharma. Do not assume voices outlining protocols and enrollment to forge relationships people will recognize your good intent—especially if they have with advocacy groups. to seek out information. Let customers hear from you directly on any upcoming clinical or information endeavor. 5. Don’t wait to meet third-party advocates and media Trust is the building block to relationships, and relationships— 2. Offer solutions to real health problems built through conversations and word of mouth campaigns—are Promotional dollars once earmarked for reminder efforts can a brand’s foundation. Public affairs professionals build these pro- forge advocacy relationships around pressing health problems. grams with traditional media, but also with other societies such Avoid one-off efforts and seek enduring campaigns improving as patient advocacy groups, grassroots coalitions, trade groups, patient care and reducing costs. Just because we’ve always given social media communities and more. Offering ways for people out pens doesn’t mean that we should continue. In some disease to engage means they are more likely to discuss that experience states, the “brand” pen for doctors could become an important with friends and family. patient compliance reminder. The day of the branded pen is behind us. But, the importance Whether using innovation to reduce hospital-acquired infections of relationships remains steadfast and critical. Public affairs and or tackling compliance issues for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary communications expertise should be brought to the forefront in Disorder (COPD)—promotional spending can be redirected to- tackling patient-care issues. Physicians will continue treating pa- ward improving outcomes. Focusing on improving patient out- tient ills…even if it means writing a prescription with their own comes rather than providing gifts is a truer and more acceptable pen. The bigger opportunities await savvy marketers and public method of engaging communities. affairs experts who can outline those treatment solutions. About Makovsky + Company Founded in 1979, Makovsky + Company ( is today one of the nation’s leading independent global public relations and investor relations consultancies. The firm attributes its success to its original vision: that the Power of Specialized Thinking™ is the best way to build reputation, sales and fair valuation for a client. Based in New York City, the firm has Contact Gil Bashe, APR, Executive Vice President agency partners in more than 20 countries and in 35 U.S. cities through IPREX, the third largest 212.508.9672 • worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which Makovsky is a founder. 1 6 E A S T 3 4 T H S T R E E T, N E W Y O R K , N Y 1 0 0 1 6 Kristie Kuhl, JD, Senior Vice President Pantone 5405 C Pantone 604 C T: 212.508.9600 F: 212.751.9710 212.508.9642 • W W W . M A K O V S K Y. C O M Marian Cutler, Senior Vice President Stevie Awards 2009 PR Agency of the Year 212.508.9641 • NOTE: The yellow in this logo has been changed to PMS 604 C specifically for the Holmes Report 2009 Multispecialist Agency of the Year Strategies newsletter. That job prints in two spot colors (5405 and 604).