As society continues to become more diverse and inclusive, Mattel, the maker of Barbie, has been evolving, too -- offering kids options so they can play with dolls who are not “aspirational” blonde-haired blue-eyed anatomically impossible icons. A few years ago, they launched petite and tall varieties. Now, they’re releasing gender neutral ones.

Mattel’s Creatable World line has dolls with different skin tones that come with options for wigs and wardrobe. The company says they want to reflect our culture and be “relatable” for both boys and girls.

We’re wishing we didn’t get rid of that dollhouse and pondering how President Barbie would approach drug pricing… On to the news!



 “Alexa, send over a nurse.” Amazon has internally launched Amazon Care, a virtual primary care clinic for their employees. The clinic offers a combination of telemedicine and in-home follow up services, which Amazon is touting as “the best of both virtual and in-person care.” Amazon also released a slew of new products this week including our favorite: Echo glasses. Additionally, the tech giant announced plans to develop wireless earbuds with health and fitness-tracking features, representing Amazon’s first foray into wearables.


 The FTC sent warning letters to seven unnamed lawyers, saying their “bad drug” ads could be considered deceptive under federal law. The FTC found the ads, which are intended to recruit plaintiffs in actions against drug manufacturers, could cause patients to discontinue their medicines. To address the issue, the FTC suggested ads could include language instructing patients not to discontinue their medication without talking to their HCP. In addition to this action, several states have passed or are considering legislation meant to bring greater balance to bad drug ads. Want to learn more? Contact our litigation communications expert Amanda Eiber.


 Want to buy a company car? You may consider healthcare instead… Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey found the average employer-sponsored family health plan now costs about the same amount as buying a sedan every year. Collectively, employers are the largest purchaser of health insurance in the country, covering more than 150 million lives. The average cost of a family plan has risen to $20,000 annually, and the average employee share of those plans is now $6,000. Companies are finding creative solutions to reduce their employees’ costs, but that can mean high-deductible plans and more Americans eventually covered by public insurers. 


 SVB Leerink, a leading investment bank specializing in healthcare, says deal-making activity in our industry will not be slowing down anytime soon.  They found an inverse correlation between deal-making and organic growth, insinuating drug companies are not growing internally when deal activity is high. In looking back at a decade of deal activity, they believe we have reached a 10 year high in acquisitions. 


 Doctors have an added concern for flu season this year: vaping! Current CDC guidelines advise physicians to rule out the flu or any other infectious cause of illness before linking back to a vaping-related illness, but it’s not so simple. And, physicians are concerned that the flu could pose an increased risk to those with a vaping-related illness, who already have compromised lungs. The public health response: continued calls for everyone to get a flu shot. (We got ours last weekend)

Pulse on Pricing: is the train off the tracks?

By Michelle Leeds

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and its likely to stall the bipartisan momentum we’ve seen on the Hill regarding prescription drug pricing. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested that work on his drug pricing legislation could get pushed into next year -- even as he warned that failure to act on drug pricing will hurt Republicans in the 2020 election. While Pelosi says the House is still legislating and drug pricing is high on the agenda, impeachment is definitely sucking the air out of the room.

Lawmakers were already running out of time to pass sweeping healthcare legislation by the end of the year and it’s looking more and more unlikely. In what was already a very partisan environment, impeachment may introduce a new level of vitriol between the parties that could make it impossible to resolve some of the healthcare issues still on the table.

Pharma companies who may be breathing a sigh of relief, shouldn’t celebrate this development. Drug pricing will remain a very hot topic for the 2020 elections, and if Democrats are successful at the ballot box, the next round of proposed reforms may be less palatable for the industry than what we’ve seen this year.

What’s next?

We may see President Trump push even harder on drug pricing – an issue he sees as key to winning reelection – perhaps even as a way to pivot the conversation away from the news of the week. In fact, the Washington Post reported that we may soon see an executive order allowing importation of some prescription drugs, an issue popular with voters and even some Democrats.

Senator Grassley and Speaker Pelosi are both determined to press forward with work on their respective bills. The House held a contentious hearing on Speaker Pelosi’s drug pricing bill on Monday and plans to hold more hearings in the coming weeks. Even with impeachment gaining steam, don’t expect Democrats to drop the drug pricing issue on the campaign trail – many candidates think this is a winning issue for them at the polls and will want to keep the topic fresh going into the election.

Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who gets by with a little help from her friends ♪ 

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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Image credits: Amazon Echo by Sarah Stenseng from the Noun Project, TV by H.A from the Noun Project, dollar sign by AlfredoCreates @ flaticondesign. com from the Noun Project, deal by popcornarts from the Noun Project, Lungs by karina from the Noun Project, Pharma Cost by Max Hancock from the Noun Project

And now please enjoy this disclaimer that prevents our team from getting in a heap of trouble: This report may contain links to external or third party websites. These links are provided solely for your convenience. Links taken to other sites are done so at your own risk and Syneos Health accepts no liability for any linked sites or their content. Syneos Health makes no warranties or representations, express or implied about such linked websites, the third parties they are owned and operated by, the information contained on them or the suitability or quality of any of their products or services. Syneos Health does not authorize the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material offered through these linked sites. Please refer to the use agreement and/or copyright statements of any external site you visit, or the terms and conditions of any externally provided web site for instructions, restrictions, and guidelines. If you have a question, please contact the webmaster of the external site.

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.