This week marked the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing and there has been no shortage of celebration. There’s even a new app with an augmented reality simulation of the Saturn V Rocket launch that takes users on the five-day journey from the Earth to the Moon. And an app is exactly the price us nostalgists can afford given that the real-life price tag of space tourism comes in at a mere $52M.

It turns out, our infatuation with the moon is “old” news – particularly in the minds of today’s youth. Harris Interactive surveyed 3,000 children in the U.S., China, and the U.K. and found that becoming an astronaut was low on their lists of what they want to be when they grow up. The top ambition according to the survey: becoming a YouTube star (collective sigh).

In our opinion, they are all missing out. Careers in life sciences are way better than being a YouTube star. To prove our point, take a look at this week’s news.



 Preparing for an FDA advisory committee meeting is incredibly important, and a Milbank Quarterly study and a Pink Sheet analysis recently affirmed that. They found advisory committees and the FDA’s ultimate actions align 78% of the time. Discordance was common when there was a lack of advisory committee consensus and when the decision was focused on product safety rather that new approvals or supplemental indications.


 Speaking of discordance, in contrast to the controversy over vaccines, the Trump Administration is preparing an executive order to bolster development of an alternate to the seasonal flu vaccine and encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.


 Who do Americans trust to lower healthcare costs? No one. A new poll from Morning Consult found that 47% of Americans have no trust the federal government will address the problem. And, almost 70% said they have little or no trust in insurers to keep costs low. More than half said they have no trust whatsoever that the pharma industry will address high prices. Our take: it is essential companies up the ante on communicating value and their commitment to patient access.


 The WHO declared the ebola outbreak in Africa is an international health emergency. More than 1,600 people have died since August and more than 2,500 have been infected. The virus has now reached the Congo borders and the WHO says Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Uganda are at high risk as it spreads.


 The EPA decided against banning the use of widely-used pesticide chlorpyrifos, which critics say is associated with neurological problems in children. The pesticide has been banned for household use since 2000, but farmers have been, and will remain, allowed to use it. The Agency will continue to review the pesticide and potential risks, which could lead to policy a revision in 2022.


   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.

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Image credits: Committee Majority by Krisada from the Noun Project, Ebola by Michael Thompson from the Noun Project, pesticides by Yu luck from the Noun Project, location pin by Kero 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.