PhRMA Tries New Approach to Pricing Problem: Consumer Appeals

The pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA has in recent weeks combated the outcry against high-priced drugs by using new consumer-facing advertising campaigns to emphasize the value of those drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has a problem, and Martin Shkreli is just one manifestation of it.

Shkreli, the investor and pharmaceutical executive who became an infamous household name after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of an obscure generic drug last year, has faced an array of recent legal troubles and last week found himself in front of Congress, repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege when asked questions about the antiparasitic drug Daraprim and its pricing.

The encounter, which repeatedly aired on television and topped the news cycle, drew fresh attention to the high price of pharmaceutical drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry has already distanced itself from Shkreli, but the situation nonetheless highlights a legitimate problem that requires a legitimate response. So what’s an industry group to do?

A Messaging Boost

To answer that question, PhRMA chose to launch a consumer-facing messaging campaign—the first of its kind for the industry group. The “From Hope to Cures” campaign doesn’t focus so much on the exact prices of drugs.

Instead, the initiative focuses on the large amount of research that often takes place before a drug is brought to market, as well as the value of the resulting drugs, with infographics such as this one highlighting the economic benefits rather than the costs:


Patient stories are also part of the equation.

“This is not something we’ve historically done, but given the focus and attention on these cases, and how far they depart from how our industry truly operates, we feel it’s important for people to understand that there is a different approach other than what you’re seeing in the news,” PhRMA Senior Vice President of Communications Robert Zirkelbach said of the strategy, according to FiercePharma.

Will the Strategy Work?

While anchored on digital and social media, the campaign will also rely on radio and print ads. Although the resulting message doesn’t take a legislative stance, it’s meant to offer an alternative take on a topic that has been a hot one on the political campaign trail in recent months.

The goal? “[To] make sure the patient story is front-and-center in any discussion of the biopharmaceutical industry and drug costs,” Zirkelbach told The Wall Street Journal last week.

Zirkelbach warns that if the pharmaceutical industry is pushed toward lower profit margins, the research channel of the industry could suffer.

“These advances you are seeing come out of the biopharmaceutical industry are at risk,” he added.

(From Hope to Cures screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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