We thought the plague was eradicated in the 1920s. Apparently not. It’s making a resurgence, this time in a cute fluffy package – prairie dogs. We’re used to watching them pop in and out of their burrows at zoos “kissing”, but parts of Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge are closed through Labor Day due to plague-infected prairie dogs. Experts are afraid that fleas on the prairie dogs will spread the disease to humans.

Health officials are coating the area’s prairie dog burrows with an insecticide powder in the hopes that as they rub across the dirt, they’ll also kill the fleas, thus preventing an epidemic.

We’d rather revisit the 1920’s with a flapper party than with this illness, so we’re cancelling our Labor Day camping trip and focusing on what’s been another busy week in healthcare.



 Leaked U.K. government documents confirm what many fear could happen in a no-deal Brexit: drug shortages. According to the documents, 85% of trucks wouldn’t be ready for French customs at the crossing where 75% of all drugs come into Britain, which could lead to major delays. The British Minister in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit said there’s no need to panic and the documents outline the “worst scenario.” We hope he’s right, but pharma companies and providers should start preparing just in case. 


 The US Preventive Services Task Force is out with another new guidance – calling for more women to be screened for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which put women at increased risk for several cancers. They say women who have been treated for breast, ovarian or tubal cancer and are considered "cancer free" should be screened, as well as those who have certain ancestries associated with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, such as being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Good thing there’s a lab close by in Fi-Di.


 It’s official. As many anticipated, the Trump administration is appealing the court’s decision to block its controversial rule requiring drug companies to include pricing in their direct-to-consumer advertising. The policy is still dead for now, but it’s going to be a long fight as the Trump Administration continues to look for a win on drug pricing. Stay tuned.


 More than 150 industry leaders signed a letter in Nature raising concerns about the dismissal of Chinese and Chinese-American scientists from academic institutions. The letter comes one year after NIH started enforcing rules requiring scientists receiving its grants report their foreign ties. The government says the policy is to prevent the theft of intellectual property (IP). While the pharma execs concur that stolen IP is a problem, they believe the impact these dismissals have on collaboration is a greater risk for future innovation.


 Can vaping be fatal? Health officials in Illinois report that a person has died after contracting a serious lung illness after vaping. The person may be the first fatality linked to using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices. The news comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced 149 people in the US had been diagnosed with a severe respiratory illness after vaping. Doctors say the illnesses look like inhalation injuries where the lungs are reacting to a caustic substance. The fatality is sure to come up in conversations among policymakers as state and federal officials have been debating restrictions on their sales. We’ll be watching!

Putting Profits Last?

By Amanda Eiber

Some TWTW readers and writers alike started off the week with a Monday-at-5-AM Washington Post alert that the Business Roundtable released its “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” In the statement, 181 signatories, all leaders of large corporations, committed to providing value not just to shareholders but to all stakeholders, including their customers, employees, suppliers, and communities. Shareholder value is actually named last, after the statement enumerates the above. This is a major shift in rhetoric from several decades of Business Roundtable statements that have given primacy to fiduciary duty to shareholders over all other constituencies.
Many of the signatories are already living the ethos – activating on a number of social issues. Some examples:

  • PepsiCo has long embraced certain sustainability and nutrition goals, like reducing packaging waste and eliminating trans fats.
  • Bank of America facilitates the construction of affordable housing via below-cost loans.
  • MasterCard has committed to some progressive policies, including issuing cards with true names to transgender and non-binary customers, without requiring a legal name change.

After signing the statement, Best Buy announced that it is adding surrogacy benefits to its roster of employee benefits related to having a child. And, Duke Energy released details about grants it’s making to expand workforce diversity in the communities in which it operates.

What this may mean for healthcare companies

This may represent a way for some healthcare corporations to dip their toes in the water, a move many life sciences companies have previously been reticent to make. If they choose not to, however, they need to be prepared.

  • Not all Business Roundtable members signed the statement. Healthcare leaders who abstained may face questions from employees, consumers and media, especially since we’re in a news climate so focused on pricing and value. Companies should be ready to rebut potential accusations they’re not putting people before profits. Even leaders who signed the statement may face questions about concrete actions their companies will take in line with these commitments.
  • Companies should continue to prepare for political rhetoric that focuses on the idea of “profits above patients”, especially as presidential candidates look to distinguish themselves and cement their reputations as populists.
  • Companies may feel increased pressure to speak up on social issues. Employees increasingly agree it is important for companies to take a meaningful stand on issues. Leaders should prepare a model of corporate activism that aligns with their corporate values and makes sense economically.

Not as much risk as you may think

Importantly, companies may not need to fear that taking a stance on an issue will irreparably damage their bottom line. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, from the Yale School of Management, writes, “doing good is not antithetical to doing well.” Companies with strong environmental, sustainability, and governance performance find that reflected in their financial results. Research detailed in the Harvard Business Review finds that companies with high levels of purpose – “the aggregate sense of meaning and impact felt by employees” – outperform the market by 5-7% each year, grow faster and have higher profitability.

The  Business Roundtable hasn’t yet proposed specific actions, but some leaders shared it will soon release some proposals. We’re eagerly awaiting.

Who wrote this? The managing editor of TWTW is Randi Kahn, who is reminding herself, and you loyal readers, to wear sunblock this weekend. An end-of-summer trip to the beach does not have to end with a sunburn.

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.