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The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

The Week That Was: Crises in Communications

May 16, 2017 0 Comments

It was one busy week! Here are a few items that caught our eye:

  • Scott Gottlieb was sworn in as the 23rd FDA Commissioner
  • 12 countries sustained major cyber attacks
  • Mick Mulvaney mused about a potential executive order on drug prices
  • President Trump used his catchphrase on former FBI director Jim Comey

Oh, and Lil’ BowWow’s Instagram posts about his fake private jet made us laugh. In a world of photo recognition, falsifying your ride to millions of online followers is ill-advised.

Pardon us as we head out for a jaunt on your yacht. Oh, and read on for The Week That Was


Last Monday, Express Scripts and GoodRx unveiled Inside Rx, a new program intended to reduce out-of-pocket costs for millions of U.S. patients. Inside Rx will offer a lower rate on 40 brand name drugs to people without health insurance or in high deductible insurance plans that prevent them from being able to afford their medication. The program partners with eight pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly. Lilly’s CEO Dave Ricks joined Express Scripts CEO Tim Wentworth for an interview with CBS This Morning, in which they discussed the program, healthcare costs in the U.S., and the role that both pharma and PBMs play in drug pricing.


Finally a step in the right direction! The eight companies who are participating in Inside RX either checked out some polling data — or read our newsletter — and realized that efforts to make medicines more affordable to patients resonates much more effectively as compared to pledges to not increase the price of medicines. Despite sniping going on between the pharmaceutical industry and PBMS, Ricks and Wentworth realized that working together to make medicines affordable is the message the populist public desires to hear – instead of the “blame game.” But the industry’s reputational efforts still have a chasm to cross… For example, when David Ricks tried to explain to CBS that Lilly’s medicines were not more expensive because the net price was flat (relative to gross), he got a lot of blank stares. To the “man on the street” public, investor centric lingo not only falls flat…but is lost on the average American.


The darling of the ad world found itself at the center of criticism last week after the U.K. division of Dove launched limited edition body wash bottles in six different shapes, designed to reflect the various sizes and figures of women. The campaign was created to celebrate the diversity and real beauty of women – a cause Dove has championed for years through its Real Beauty campaign. The campaign has had its share of critics, but was largely successful until the company made the decision to expand its messaging through to its product packaging. Dubbing it the “bottle ad-boo boo,” critics and late night comedians inundated social media with posts mocking the campaign and accusing the company of encouraging women to do the very thing they set out to not do – be defined by their body shape and size. As of last Friday, Dove hadn’t responded to requests for comment.


For years, marketers have faced the conundrum of whether the company, or its leadership, should take a public stance on particular values and political issues – proactively or reactively (ahem, Chick-Fil-A and New Balance). With a surge of activism prompting consumers to purchase from companies that share their values and boycott those that don’t, it’s becoming harder for companies to remain apolitical. BUT, Dove reminded us this week that mixing values and business can be tricky. When proactively planning for a campaign that touches on values, first, get cross-functional buy-in on the approach and second, test with focus groups comprised of people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. And, even if you’ve checked the boxes on testing and your campaign is 100% well-intentioned, have a plan in place to address possible concerns and be prepared with validators who will support your efforts.


Last week, Sanofi joined the ranks of drug makers pledging pricing transparency and intensified efforts to keep price increases down. But, the company singled itself out by saying it will peg increases for any product to below the national health expenditure (NHE), which is projected to be 5.4 percent this year. And that’s not all: Sanofi plans to share the rationale for how it sets pricing with each new drug launch and is releasing its average list and net price increases from 2016 onward. CEO Olivier Brandicourt said the company wants “to help people understand what aspects of the ultimate cost we can control, and where the levers are controlled by others.” Brandicourt vowed to stay honest and admitted there may be times in the future when Sanofi may increase prices at higher than NHE inflation rates: but he promised a public rationale for any such increase.


Of all the transparency announcements to date, Sanofi’s may be the most transparent (yes, we get the irony). Sanofi is making a smart move, considering that President Trump is touting drug pricing as a priority – and a possible focus for a future executive order. Coming on the heels of news that Eli Lilly raised prices on nine drugs last week after having made its own transparency pledge, there’s no question that the media and greater public will watch to see what happens with Sanofi as well.

Until next week,

– The Issues Management Practice @inVentiv Health PR

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