Pulse on Politics
by Michelle Leeds
It’s election time people, and rhetoric about health policy is on the rise. This week’s hot healthcare topic: tying the price Americans pay for drugs with what other countries pay. Two leading contenders for the Democratic party nomination put forward proposals linking drug prices to those in other developed countries.
- Senator Kamala Harris unveiled a proposal that would allow the federal government to cap drug prices at levels comparable to those in other developed nations.
- Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden proposed an independent review board that would determine the “reasonable price” of new specialty drugs, linking them to the average price in other countries (if applicable).
As previously covered in The Week That Was President Trump has been discussing implementing similar international reference pricing for quite some time. After some recent setbacks (including withdrawal of the rebate rule and a court loss on price disclosure in DTC ads), there may be pressure on the Trump administration to deliver a win. We’ll be watching and waiting to see if it puts all their eggs in the international reference pricing basket.
It's all in the Timing
This week, executives from Juul and Netflix offered contrition in response to criticisms of their businesses. But were their apologies handled well
Here’s the rundown:
Amidst growing pressure from policymakers about its e-cigarettes – and in advance of a critical documentary -- Juul Lab’s CEO Kevin Burns apologized to the parents of teenagers who have become addicted to their product. In his statement this week, Burns said, “I hope there was nothing that we did that made it appealing to [teenagers].” Days later, Juul hired a leading researcher known for his work examining the impact of tobacco on the brains of teenagers as its new medical director.
The apology and announcement come nearly a year after Juul acted to suspend the sales of most of their flavored e-cigarette pods and discontinue social media promotion – following pressure from the FDA to do so. But the scrutiny was mounting long before. In 2017, a major study found that more than three million middle and high school students were using e-cigarettes. About one-third of them said the flavors were a leading factor in their decision.
The delayed apology is being dismissed by many in the public health community as too late and disingenuous. Had Juul addressed the crisis and made proactive commitments at the time of suspension – it may have headed off some scrutiny. A year later they could be talking about updates to their commitments instead of reliving the issue.
13 Reasons Why
As Netflix prepares to launch season three of the show “13 Reasons Why,” the network simultaneously announced it removed a controversial scene from the original season. A scene graphically portraying the suicide of a teenager invoked significant backlash when the show launched two years ago. Critics feared it could inspire copycat behavior. At the time, it sparked Netflix to add additional warnings at the beginning of the episode. Yet, until now the scene remained in.
Fast forward to 2019 and a study published in April in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that suicide rates spiked among boys aged 10 to 17 in the month after the show’s initial release. Three months later, the 3-minute scene was removed.
While most media coverage noted that the change received external support from advocacy groups and physician organizations, many others questioned the timeline and motives. The delayed reaction and tandem announcement with Season 3 felt more about promotion and less about responsiveness to teenage mental health risk.
We believe “Timing is everything – particularly when lives are at stake.”
Drop by: For those attending the EXL Pharma PR & Communications Summit, swing by to say hi to Meg and Miriam presenting on communications on drug pricing and access.
Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who will be laughing at a Weird Al concert this weekend and Dana Davis, who is escaping the heat-wave after getting stuck in last week’s blackout.
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.
Got thoughts? Contact Randi
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