Christine Truelove had a good roundup of opinions on the Vytorin issue. But what I saw? Media Gods and Drug Industry — monoliths each. This week, with the Vytorin Enhance Study being revealed, another feeding frenzy began. Yes, the study raises many disturbing issues, but today I saw the answer, yes, THE answer for the industry and how first and foremost, we (agencies, clients alike) need to start speaking to patients, not at them.
The answer? Read Gary Taubes NYT Op-Ed on Vytorin http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/opinion/27taubes.html?ref=opinion
But before I tell you why, let’s take a slight detour…
A journalist called me for a quote on the controversy — but then he surprised me by trying to couple it to the does-Dr. Jarvik-take-Lipitor news story. I was all ready to share my thoughts on what I thought Vyrtorin/Merck/SP should do — but I started to laugh. Dr Jarvik and Vytorin? Now we HAVE lost our minds. But then I realized that for this journalist, these were all the same example that further demonstrated the sleaziness of Big Pharma. It all smacks of a culture of consirpacy to bamboozle the American Public.
I told him that Dr Jarvik and Vytorin were two different issues entirely. I would not comment on them jointly; I suggested that he weigh which was worse — Dr Jarvik possibly not taking Lipitor himself, or Dr Phil betraying Brittany Spears. Can we move on, please? Have you ever seen such a blatant level of distrust — no, it’s worse: it is NEED to distrust.
One of the greatest challenges for the entire pharmaceutical/biotech industry is "authenticity." Some would say that the issue is trust, or the lack thereof; and a few years ago when I worked as a strategist on Pfizer for Living, I was of that same mindset; unbranded content could help regain the lost trust. But one line kept going over and ver in my head: trust is earned. So the issue of HOW we earn it is what we should be talking about. and given the Boogeyman role the Media Gods have presecribed for pharma, we will never — yes, that is right — never create a trusted role, at best we may re-gain some grudging respect as the scienctists and pioneers that drive the industry, but the fact is, it is a distraction. (Bob Erhlich had a good post, though he seemed more like a therapist than an editor. http://dtcperspectives.com/blog/ )
Authenticity is a challenge for the industry, because it is not something achieved through quantification nor is there some methodology to get our communications to a place where they actually speak to people, not at them.
It comes down to transparent, personally authored patient education. But not the kind of condition unbranded education we often see, and myself have helped create, but truly broad education that takes into account people’s Learning Styles, lack of knowledge about their own bodies, to name a few ingrediants. I mean education that understands that despite the all-hallowed relationship between the doctor and patient, the reality of lack of time together makes it time we use tools like CRM to augment the knowledge that a patient might get from a longer appointment.
But I digress. Why is that OP-Ed important? He made sense, he gave context, and took the time and language to inform and educate, but not preach. He treated the readers like adults, not pawns in the game of the Media Gods and the Pharma Monolith.