Do you want to spend 20 hours on a plane? That is the question that Quantas Airlines asked when it manned the longest flight ever last weekend between New York and Sydney, Australia. Designed to test the body’s ability to endure the time-zone/body clock disruption, passengers were given specific instructions for when (and what) they could eat and drink, sleep, and move around. Tests conducted during the flight ranged from monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness, to exercise classes and blood pressure checks for passengers.

A Bloomberg reporter on the flight says he felt better upon landing than he did on his last trip to Australia, which included a stop. We think the regulated sleep piece would do us in.

Don’t go planning a trip just yet. If the project proceeds, new planes will be needed that can carry more weight for the duration without running out of fuel (the test flight has only 49 people on it, all in business class, and did not allow luggage).

As we board a shorter flight this weekend, we’ve got some in-flight worthy reading for you. 



Could there be a cure for everything? Researchers say “prime editing” a new form of genome-editing that combines CRISPR-Cas9 with reverse transcriptase, has the potential to correct 89% of known disease-causing genetic variations in DNA. “Prime editing” may correct single-letter misspellings – the type that cause diseases such Sickle Cell and Tay-Sachs. Unlike previous CRISPR technologies, prime editing doesn’t make cuts into the double helix, minimizing risk for unintended changes. 


There’s potential progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Biogen shocked the world – and the markets -- by reviving its beta-amyloid targeting adacanumab this week, following analysis of a larger data set from a discontinued study. The developer said expanded data indicate it reduced clinical decline in patients with early Alzheimer’s on multiple measures. The news sent the company’s stock soaring, but after past heart-breaking failures in AD, many are asking for a closer look at the data before celebrating.


Amazon was prime for a new healthcare-related acquisition, and their purchase of Health Navigator should be processed in 2-days or less! The newly purchased digital health technology company works to eliminate travel and wait time for patients, connect employees and family members to a physician through live chats and video calls, and coordinates in-person registered nursing services. Although shipping and handling is still being processed, we’re ready to whisper from our beds, “Alexa, video call my doctor!” 


Can software be racist? Possibly. Analysis of a software algorithm used by many leading health systems to anticipate the care needs of over ~70MM primary care patients was found to favor white patients. Essentially, the algorithm put Caucasian patients ahead of African Americans for special programs for chronic conditions, when the patients had similar risk factors. The potential cause: how the system weighs socio-economic factors driven by access issues. This raises the worrying question as to whether other risk scoring algorithms may have similar bias at a time when more payers and providers are relying on this type of data.


It turns out that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing bill (H.R. 3) could be found unconstitutional. That’s according to a report from Congress’ own legal experts at the non-partisan (and widely respected) Congressional Research Service. The bill would assess huge tax penalties, of up to 95%, on companies who refuse to negotiate with the government on drug prices. In our view, the House is still likely to vote on (and pass) the bill. But since its likely DOA in the Republican-controlled Senate, its main use is campaign rhetoric (for now!). 

All PR is NOT good PR

By Miriam Kalnicki

Are U.S. sheriffs PhRMA’s new spokespeople? According to Bloomberg, they are. The outlet details how the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a non-profit funded by the pharmaceutical industry, ‘secretly’ paid for an ad campaign against drug importation, despite the ads stating that they were paid for by the National Sheriff's Association. The TV spots under scrutiny warn about unsafe counterfeit medicines slipping into the U.S. and overwhelming law-enforcement. Bloomberg’s exposé details that the ‘secret’ payments from the Partnership for Safe Medicines helped a cash-strapped Sherriff’s association that was deep in real-estate debt. The ads leveraged “celebrity drug cops” including one retired sheriff who now regrets working with the group.

Implications for manufacturers

Maintaining transparency in relationships is the golden rule in public relations—especially for a highly visible message to resonate with stakeholder audiences. The old adage about “all PR is good PR” doesn’t hold water when the public is consistently scrutinizing the industry’s pricing and practices. These days, legal compliance isn’t enough and companies must be transparent in their disclosures to maintain public trust. This is especially critical for a message against drug importation to “land” authoritatively.

Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who just got a new and improved AC unit, just in time to turn the heat on. Blankets are her friend. Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.

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About the Author:

Randi Kahn is a Senior Media & Content Director in our Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps clients build and protect their brand reputations through executive thought leadership, public affairs, and issues preparation and response. She has worked for clients throughout the healthcare ecosystem including payers, providers, patient groups and pharma.