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Pariah de jour: The Pharmacy Industry

From Capitol Hill to the evening news, the pharmaceutical industry has been and is being pilloried as the “pariah de jour.”
We have all seen the stories about the alleged greed of pharmaceutical companies. They range from accusations of the highest profits of any industry in the country to shortages of flu vaccines and other medications because there was no money to be made.

And just this week the latest accusatory survey says that prescription costs have risen by more than 10 percent to an average of more than $45, with annual expenditures increasing by $21 billion last year.

A recent Wall Street Journal article outlined how the drug industry is being blamed for everything from high-cost medication at home to the spread of AIDS in Africa. But we all know it’s easy to manipulate the truth with your numbers to promote a self-serving agenda.

For example, the traveling “dog-and-pony” slide show of Physician for a National Health Program claims that the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in the country. But a closer look reveals that Coca-Cola made more money most of the time in the past decade, according to a new study by Merrill Matthews for the Institute for Policy Innovation.

So why all the finger-pointing? Because they need a big bad villain to scare us into accepting their version of government-controlled medicine.

All of this will continue and accelerate unless the U.S. drug industry goes on the offensive. As New York commentator Deroy Murdock recently observed, the pharmaceutical companies need a tough advertising and PR campaign to make a few things clear to American citizens and lawmakers.

What are these things that industry and the media just don’t want to say or admit because they aren’t politically correct?

You cannot get something for nothing.
If the drug industry does not create these new life-saving substances, no one will.
Absent profits, the drug industry will stop (or at least slow) its innovations.
High drug prices reflect an effort to recoup the high cost of research and development and money poured into “blind alley” drugs that eventually fail once tested in the animal labs or high priced clinical studies.
High drug prices also reflect the need to recoup these investments during short patent lives that are curtailed even further by the many years it takes to gain FDA approval.
During the last presidential campaign, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman described the drug industry as something between the Cosa Nostra and the Antichrist. Of course many people bought in. Let’s face it. It’s the American way to want something for nothing. We all would like infinite electricity, a hundred light bulbs, a thousand gallons of gasoline and a lifetime of medications for free. Never mind that we expect profit for the work we do!

The industry response to these predictable self serving vote-gathering tactics by the Gore-Lieberman, left-leaning-liberals was soft, gauzy and unfocused. Industry CEOs and drug company advertisements did not respond to any of these malicious charges.

So what did their crack public relations teams come up with instead? We saw lots of heartwarming shots of some drug industry researchers walking on the beach with their relatives or staring at beakers in their crisp white lab coats. The issues, facts, legitimate arguments and rebuttals went AWOL.

Pharmaceutical executives, publicists, marketers and salespersons need to borrow from the political consultants and “go negative.” It s time to adopt a tough, fact-based and aggressive communications approach to tell their side of the story to the public. They have nothing to lose. The activists and media already hate the “mean drug companies.” They are easy political targets — just like physicians.

At worst, the bleeding-heart, mainstream media will continue to scorn the drug companies. At best, the drug manufacturers may get them, or at least the general public, to think about the realities rather than the hocus pocus and lies that pass for public discourse on health and medicine these days.

Why do we feel so strongly? Because when the “big one” hits, we’d prefer to pay a fair price for those nasty medications that will save your and our lives. Fair price includes a profit. No profit — no medicines. No medicines — no heart beat. No heart beat — no oxygen to vital tissues and organs! No oxygen — no anything!

On this point, pharmaceutical industry leaders should take no prisoners. Give us liberated pharmacy companies or give us death!

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, Calif., writes extensively on medical, legal, disability and mental health reform. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., of Aberdeen, Wash., is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both doctors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists. Collaborating as The Medicine Men, they write a weekly column for WorldNetDaily as well as numerous articles and editorials for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals nationally and internationally.