Tag Archives: Patient centric healthcare

The industry is here to make a profit

I read this statement about the pharmaceutical industry in the media yesterday and it literally stopped me mid sentence. I have seen the same sentiment uttered so many times over the years, in lots of situations and forums by pharma executives and employees alike.

But, for some reason, it really struck me yesterday. Why is this being said so often? Who is this directed at? What is the purpose?

And when I thought about it a bit more I realized that I have not seen other industries and companies saying this sort of thing. It is a given, companies exist to make money. That is the natural result of doing what they do, what they are entitled to do.

We understand this.

So why does pharma so often reach for this tired justification?

You can see it in a variety of contexts but probably most often springing up when pricing or drug costs are discussed. No surprise there, but also when innovation such as Value Added Services, Patient Centricity or Beyond the Pill are discussed as well.

It really is a terrific statement that is an effective debate stifler, but, as I said earlier, I am not sure who it is aimed at convincing.

For me, it seems particularly effective in internal communications, when the company is justifying it’s position and wants to communicate to its own people that one of the reasons for this decision is that the company needs to make a profit. Employees understand that if the company is not profitable then their jobs and livelihoods are at risk.

But beyond internal use I’m not so clear; it seems to be used mostly as a conversation stopper. Who can argue that any company needs to make a profit, but it is not very specific and it is very hard to refute.

In the on going argument about drug pricing it is sometimes used to justify the price, but it hardly addresses the issue from a customers’ perspective. It’s more than a bit dismissive in fact and if the objective is to stop discussion I would have to say it is effective. But. And it’s a big but, managing feedback from customers about cost is an important topic that deserves a serious response.

Of course a company can charge whatever it wants for its products. They have that right, but customers have the right to complain and to not buy the product if they so choose. Of course in healthcare it is not so easy, but customers should speak up about unreasonable pricing and they should demand, and receive a serious response that enables them to make an evaluation based on all the facts.

Pharma needs to take responsibility for the lack of trust that is so rampant among its stakeholders and customers. The lack of transparency breeds lack of trust and when sentiments like the one above are used to justify drug pricing then the industry needs to take the feedback on the chin and actively do something to address this very common concern.

Either they can clearly demonstrate the value of their products or they can’t. Simple.

But to see it so often brings to mind the famous quote from Hamlet “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”.



Would you participate in a clinical trial?

Newspaper advertisements seeking patients and ...

Newspaper advertisements seeking patients and healthy volunteers to participate in clinical trials. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that is quite hard to recruit patients into taking part in a clinical trial. And getting harder too.

For those of you who don’t know, these are clinical studies, usually carried out by clinical research organisation on behalf of a pharmaceutical company. They typically involve recruiting patients that match a specific criteria set down by the pharma company, and they are either provided the drug being tested or a placebo sugar pill and the results monitored. Clearly the patient does not know if they are receiving ‘the real deal’ or just a sugar pill. In return the patient receives on going free medical checks, the medication for free and usually some form of fee.

Additionally the patient needs to submit to a series, sometimes quite a rigorous series of tests throughout the course of the trial. And, of course, you may be lucky and receive a new, highly effective new treatment for your condition. Or not!

So, on a recent trip back to the US I was driving down from New York and on the radio that I was only half listening to, there was an advertisement from a CRO (Clinical Research Organisation) recruiting people to take part in an investigational trial. It sort of caught my attention, so I listened a bit more closely to the last part of the advert. The thing that really caught my attention was the ending. It went something like this ‘call this number today if you qualify and be part of this investigational trial’.

I am sure the advert was better than that, but the way it finished left me feeling like it was a competition, and if you met their specifications you were a winner. I felt like this was a very typical mistake made by companies that work in this area and was a fine example of an internal company view without really appreciating the customers perspective.

What the advert should have said was ‘if you are unfortunate enough to have this condition we may be able to help you’. But this advert was only looking at the benefits for the pharma company. We need test subjects, we will pay them money to participate. They may or may not receive the drug they need, but this will help us bring this drug to market or not.

It’s no wonder people don’t want to participate in trials. Forget the ethical issue of folks not receiving a medication that they need, or even telling them they are taking the medicine or not, but pharma and CRO’s need to understand the patients perspective better.

I know I would not want to participate, what about you?