In the years to come, science will continue to evolve, medicines will come to market that improve and, in increasing instances, even save the lives of many people.
Biopharmaceutical companies and their research partners are pursuing, discovering and developing therapies for some of the most intractable medical conditions including aggressive cancers, rare genetic diseases and progressive neurological and autoimmune disorders, among others. In many respects, they’re making strides at a faster pace than ever before and achieving outcomes previously not thought possible.
Parallel to this progress is another reality: drugs coming to market at increasingly high prices, some with price tags of several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
While drug pricing has long been a topic of debate, acrimony and concern, the emergence of a new generation of highly effective and tolerable therapies for hepatitis C a few years ago accentuated the issue and stimulated conversation about the public health burden and pharmaceutical costs associated with diseases like Hep C and cancer.
More recently, dramatic advances in a variety of rare diseases has resulted in a significant uptick in scrutiny and criticism of drug manufacturers and calls to dismantle the Orphan Drug Act, legislation that provides incentives to companies developing drugs for rare diseases.
The emergence of gene and cellular technologies, will bring additional transformative, yet expensive, medications and technologies. With the expected imminent FDA approval of the country’s first gene therapy for an inherited disorder- a rare condition that causes blindness—we may have the country’s first drug with a million-dollar price tag. And given the number of companies researching regenerative medicines and the recent FDA guidance designed to expedite their approval, we can anticipate more drugs that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said are based on scientific concepts that “are no longer the stuff of science fiction” to come to market in the near future.
Rhetoric and action
At his first press conference as president-elect in January 2017, Donald Trump said that the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder” with regard to the prices they charged. It is unclear what the federal government’s plan is in this area but at his recent Senate committee hearing, Health and Human Services secretary nominee Alex Azar stated that lowering drug prices would be one of his top four priorities if confirmed.
We’re seeing increasing activism from state governments on this topic. California, for instance, has mandated that beginning January 2018 any drug company doing business in the state must give 60 days’ notice to insurers and government health agencies whenever they raise by 16% or more the price of any drug with a wholesale cost of $40 or more. By 2019, the companies must also justify the price increases. On December 8, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA as it is more commonly known, filed a lawsuit to block the California law stating that it “creates bureaucracy, thwarts private market competition, and ignores the role of insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and hospitals in what patients pay for their medicines.”
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has also called for more transparency behind pricing drug decisions. On November 30, 2017, it released “Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative,” a 201-page plan for “improving the affordability of prescription drugs without discouraging continued innovation in drug development.” The recommendations touch on generics and biosimilars, DTC drug advertising, insurance benefit design and financial transparency.
In another interesting development, The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, or ICER, which Forbes called the “relatively new self-appointed cost-effectiveness watchdog” announced that a charitable donation will allow it to evaluate all newly approved drugs for clinical and cost effectiveness.
The biopharmaceutical industry response—how do communications fit in?
Companies are taking productive measures to address the rising price of drugs. Over the last year, several drugs were launched with novel pricing strategies which were well received by the market and the media. Increasingly, companies are pursuing pay-for-performance, tiered pricing and pricing for market disruption—offering substantial discounts to competitor therapies. Others have pledged not to increase the price of existing drugs.
Communications can play an important role in a number of ways. Each drug, each technology, each disease area has its own nuances but there are a few consistent general principles.
Listen and be collaborative. Create opportunities to engage stakeholders in dialogue about needs and issues. When possible, solicit input from physicians, payers, patient advocates, patients, caregivers-directly. Patient insight and third-party perspective can be immeasurably helpful in communicating a therapy’s value and differentiation.
Bring humanity to the science: Marry hard clinical evidence and the energy of scientific progress with the personal experiences of the patients, physicians and researchers living on the frontlines of medicine. Have an array of people available to speak to the emotional, practical and tangible value of a medication.
Recognize and address the informational needs of disparate stakeholders. Payers want comprehensive health economics data to make informed and rational decisions. Payers and policy makers want to understand disease burden, overall cost to the system and who will be footing the bill for what. Doctors need to see tangible efficacy, safety or reduction in burden evidence that shows a meaningful improvement over existing therapy. Patients must understand how a drug’s price affects them and the process for accessing it.
Communicate clearly. A company I work with recently took the unusual step of including the price of its newly approved therapy in its press release. This simple and straightforward action eliminated guessing and frustration from journalists and resulted in clear, objective reporting.
Emphasize solutions. As mentioned earlier, scientific innovation is increasingly matched with innovative pricing and access models that offer true access benefits. Provide tangible examples of these benefits and clarity about what they do and do not offer.
In the years to come, science will continue to evolve, medicines will come to market that improve and, in increasing instances, even save the lives of many people. At the same time, pressures on access and sustainability will undoubtedly intensify. As healthcare communicators, it is vital that we stay informed, engage in the conversation and try to be part of the solution.
Article featured in The Holmes Report written by: Jill Dosik, President, Global Scientific Communications & Message Impact, GCI Health
New York, NY – December 6, 2017 – GCI Health, the leading global healthcare public relations agency, today announced two new leadership positions. Due to the firm’s growth in medical devices and excit-ing changes in the industry, Edie DeVine, Senior Vice President, is transitioning from her current func-tion as West Coast Market Leader to the newly created role of U.S. Director of Medical & Health Tech-nology. In her new role, Edie will partner with Wendy Lund, CEO, and Kristin Cahill, President, North America, to serve the needs of the agency’s already impressive roster of medical device and health information technology clients, and continue to expand the agency’s work in this area.
“Medical device and technology companies have very specific communications needs on both the business-to-business side as well as their increasing efforts to reach consumers directly,” said Lund. “New innovation in the space is allowing us to do things differently and translate highly complex sub-ject matters in ways that resonate with a variety of audiences.”
Elliot Levy, Senior Vice President, has been named West Coast Market Leader. Elliot, who has been with GCI Health for 10 years in the New York headquarters, recently moved to Los Angeles and will work closely with GCI Health’s senior leadership to continue to service and grow the agency’s client roster and oversee the agency’s expanding team in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Den-ver. Throughout his career, Elliot has built a reputation for providing spot-on strategic counsel and pro-gram management to help clients launch new products and campaigns, develop strategic partnerships and influence consumer attitudes.
“Elliot and I have worked together for many years across a wide range of organizations, including global pharmaceutical companies, start-up biotechnology firms, and non-profit organizations devoted to im-proving public health around the world,” said Cahill. “We’re excited to bring this experience to the West Coast and the diverse healthcare market here as we continue to grow GCI Health’s presence.”
About GCI Health
GCI Health is a full-service specialty healthcare communications firm recently named Global and North America Healthcare Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and Best of The Best Agency to Work For. The agency’s client roster spans broadly across all sectors in health care, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer health, provider groups (hospitals and managed care), health IT, beauty and aesthetics and nonprofit. GCI Health offers clients an accessible senior-level leadership team, a commitment to beating client expectations, and an obsession with anticipating the challenges of an increasingly complex and transforming healthcare communications environment. With a deep focus in multichannel marketing, high science, consumer activation, crisis management, reputation building, patient advocacy and health education, GCI Health’s focus on delivering results is unrelenting. For more information, please visit www.gcihealth.com.
GCI Health, the leading healthcare-focused global public relations agency, announced their partnership with REDBOOK magazine (the iconic women’s magazine that reaches millions) and HealthyWomen, (the nation’s leading independent health information source for women) to better understand the health habits of an extremely influential
demographic for the healthcare industry — women 30-60 years of age. The newly launched HealthiHER Project aims to make self-care a priority in a woman’s everyday life, so she can ultimately become a ‘healthier her’—for herself, her family and society.
“Healthcare has transformed over the last decade in terms of how we access and use information to guide our health, and it is critical that we gain a deeper understanding of what drives women’s healthcare decisions,” said Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health. “We’re excited to be working with REDBOOK and HealthyWomen to uncover some key insights that will help us better communicate with this important population.”
“We know that many of REDBOOK’s readers are moms and caregivers, and that taking care of them-selves can’t always be their first priority—while she is likely to be the key decision maker on health-related matters for the family, she routinely puts her own health needs behind those of her loved ones,” said Karen Snyder Duke, Health Editor, REDBOOK. “We’re eager to learn more about the role women play in their family’s health and how organizations like REDBOOK, HealthyWomen and GCI Health can help them better manage their own.”
As a first step in the HealthiHER Project, GCI Health, HealthyWomen and REDBOOK are launching a landmark survey to uncover insights that could have a seminal impact on the way women in this demographic approach their healthcare decisions and needs. Research into this population will help better understand how women are tuned into health. Ultimately, the goal of the research is to improve the lives of these women by educating them, engaging them and inspiring them to get healthier, stay healthier, and live more vital lives.
The survey, for woman between the ages of 30 and 60, is available at: http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/how-do-you-feel-about-your-health
“We want to remind women that self-care is not selfish. It’s actually quite the opposite,” said Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO, HealthyWomen. “If women do not take care of themselves, they will not be able to take care of their families. It all begins with preventive care, and this survey will ultimately allow us to know what’s preventing women from receiving it.”
With this survey—along with a plethora of insights from secondary research—GCI Health, Healthy-Women and REDBOOK look to combine their collective thought power, resources and passion for women and their health to uncover deeper insights that will engage and support these women in ways they have not been activated before.
About GCI Health
GCI Health is a full-service specialty healthcare communications firm recently named Global and North America Healthcare Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and Best of the Best Agency to Work For. The agency’s client roster spans broadly across all sectors in health care, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer health, provider groups (hospitals and managed care), health IT, beauty and aesthetics and nonprofit. GCI Health offers clients an accessible senior-level leadership team, a commitment to beating client expectations, and an obsession with anticipating the challenges of an increasingly complex and transforming healthcare communications environment. With a deep focus in multichannel marketing, high science, consumer activation, crisis management, reputation building, patient advocacy and health education, GCI Health’s focus on delivering results is unrelenting. For more information, please visit www.gcihealth.com.
For nearly 30 years, HealthyWomen has inspired and empowered millions of women to take a proac-tive role in their health. A progressive and unique women’s health not-for-profit, HealthyWomen combines a 24/7 online health media platform with award-winning education and advocacy campaigns. HealthyWomen’s web destination engages with readers and health care providers alike and provides valuable health information that educates women and guides them through the various ages and stages of life. For more information on HealthyWomen, visit http://www.healthywomen.org.
REDBOOK (www.redbookmag.com) is the lifestyle guide for today’s modern women, full of accessible fashion, real beauty, smart health advice, easy recipes and chic décor tricks. Curating the very best products and ideas, REDBOOK helps its 10 million readers enjoy their nonstop lives. Winner of Adweek’s “Hottest Women’s Magazine” in 2015, the iconic brand thrives in print, online, mobile and social, making great style accessible for every woman. With 20 titles in the U.S., Hearst is the largest publisher of monthly magazines with a total paid circulation of nearly 30 million (AAM 1H 2017). Hearst Magazines’ print and digital assets reach nearly 123 million readers and site visitors each month–nearly two-thirds of all women and millennial women in the country. (source: 2017 comScore Multi-Platform // GfK MRI Media + Fusion (06-17/F16)). Hearst Digital Media has 143 million followers across social. Follow REDBOOK on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Wendy Lund, GCI Health’s CEO, served as conference co-chair, the first agency person to ever serve in this capacity, for the ExL Pharma Public Relations & Communications Summit. The Summit was hosted at Celgene Corporation’s headquarters in Summit, New Jersey July 18 and 19. This Summit is a huge moment for GCI Health and offers the agency great exposure to communicators at many of the top companies in the biopharmaceutical industry.
As a marquee partner for the sixth year in a row, GCI Health played a major role in developing the theme of this year’s Summit, “Providing a Clear Path Forward During Chaotic Times,” including working closely with the ExL advisory panel to map out the presentations. GCI Health also led a robust discussion around media engagement in today’s environment that featured an award-winning panel of Susan Wagner, Senior Coordinating Medical Unit Producer at NBC News, Arlene Weintraub, national healthcare and pharmaceutical business reporter, Marie Rosenthal, national healthcare trade editor and reporter, and Becky Lauer, executive vice president, GCI Health’s director of media. Jill Dosik, GCI Health’s Global President, Scientific Communications and Message Impact, moderated the session.
Feedback from the Summit attendees has been excellent, and we are already discussing with ExL Pharma potential themes for next year’s Summit.
New York, NY – May 11, 2017 – GCI Health, the leading healthcare-focused global public relations agency, today announced the hire of Victoria “Tori” Fort as senior vice president/Market Leader in Washington DC. Tori will be responsible for building the agency’s presence in the area and expanding on GCI Health’s capabilities in health public affairs and policy, leveraging the agency’s strong network of policy experts. Tori is a longtime DC veteran who started her career in grassroots marketing and is an expert in translating complex scientific communications to reach diverse audiences. She has spent her career successfully working to bring together patient advocates, healthcare thought leaders and biopharmaceutical companies on joint initiatives.
“GCI Health is focused on helping our clients navigate today’s rapidly evolving and sometimes unpredictable political and regulatory environment,” said Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health. “With many uncertainties in the healthcare ecosystem, it’s essential to be able to anticipate policy and legislative actions and trends to support our clients while developing positions on myriad issues, such as drug pricing, compassionate use and drug regulation. Tori’s expertise will help the agency further build out campaigns through the lens of key decision makers and position our clients to advance their objectives in an increasingly value-driven healthcare system.”
Prior to GCI Health, Tori led key accounts across the Chandler Chicco/inVentiv Health network of biopharma and consumer health clients and served as Ruder Finn’s DC expert. A seasoned C-Suite counselor, Tori has guided clients from emerging biotechs to Fortune 500 leaders and worked across patient advocacy groups, non-profits and the biopharmaceutical industry on a range of award-winning efforts.
About GCI Health GCI Health is a full-service specialty healthcare communications firm recently named Healthcare Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report and All-Around Best Agency to Work For. The agency’s client roster spans broadly across all sectors in healthcare, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer health, provider groups (hospitals and managed care), health IT, beauty and aesthetics and non-profit. GCI Health offers clients an accessible senior level leadership team, a commitment to beating client expectations, and an obsession with anticipating the challenges of an increasingly complex and transforming healthcare communications environment. With a deep focus in multichannel marketing, high science, consumer activation, crisis management, reputation building, patient advocacy and health education, GCI Health’s focus on delivering results is unrelenting. For more information, please visit www.gcihealth.com.