Under Pressure to Shape Up, Pharma Industry Launches PR Campaign

Lobbying group aims to improve industry’s image with both policymakers and consumers

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the largest lobbying organization for pharmaceutical companies, has started running television ads to improve the industry's image as criticism from President Donald Trump increases. In a statement, the group said that its “Go Boldly” campaign “will showcase the industry’s unsung heroes driving cutting-edge advances in science and [will] highlight the tremendous opportunity that exists to tackle our most complex and devastating health conditions.” The announcement didn’t mention the current controversy over hefty drug price increases.

The campaign will eventually include national TV, print, digital, radio, and out-of-home advertising. A new website will provide visitors with more information about the topics and themes featured in campaign advertisements.

“Revolutionary biopharmaceutical science” is the central theme of the campaign advertisements featured at launch, the statement said. Do Not Go Gentle, the first TV advertisement, features the iconic poem by Dylan Thomas and highlights biopharmaceutical scientists “who have an indomitable will to find the unfindable and [to] cure the incurable.” Cells highlights “exciting scientific advances that are happening at the cellular level” and will be featured in print and digital advertisements.

Additional advertisements will be introduced throughout the year focusing on “bold advancements in science” and featuring the stories of researchers who are driving those advances alongside patients benefiting from the medications that are being developed, the statement said.

In addition to paid advertising, the campaign will include comprehensive public affairs activities to foster a national dialogue with researchers, caregivers, patients, and policymakers in forums around the country. “These discussions will focus on what the new era in medicine means for patients and the health care system and [on] the types of public policy solutions that are needed to sustain this progress,” according to the announcement.

Planning for the group’s campaign began six months ago, well before the November presidential election, spokesman Robert Zirkelbach told the Reuters news agency.

Like many organizations, PhRMA expected Hillary Clinton to win the election and began planning to push back at her calls for capping drug prices. The group continued with plans for the campaign after Trump was elected.

PhRMA has also released a four-part regulatory and legislative agenda, including advocating for changes to the FDA and for the ability of drug makers to coordinate with insurance companies when developing new treatments.

Sources: PhRMA; January 23, 2017; and Reuters; January 23, 2017.