The Fourth Quarter Will Have Little Oxygen – Implications for Healthcare Milestones

Given the state of things in 2020, a lot of us are already thinking about when it will end. Moreover when it does end, it will be good riddance. That said, this difficult year will not go quietly into the night. For those seeking to have a share of voice during the final quarter of the year, they may find it drowned out by circumstances and events.

First of all there is the obvious factor of the election cycle that means that the fourth quarter of the year will be different, and more intense than the previous three. Leading up to the election there is not only going to be the usual focus on political issues and the electoral milestones such as debate between the candidates. It is also likely that we going to witness an unprecedented stream of drama – as we have seen with suggestions of election postponement this week. That alone promises a good deal of media attention – both traditional and social. Additionally, the stakes along so many lines are high and intense. That includes the issues themselves – healthcare and the handling of the pandemic to diversity and social justice. As well, the balance of power is very much more in play this season with a much stronger possibility than there was at the beginning of the year that the Senate could change hands.

Secondly there is the pandemic itself, likely to be a frequent subject in the swirl mentioned above in addition to producing its own news. Transmission in the U.S. is out of control and a de facto policy that appears to favor waiting it all out in the hopes of a coming vaccine – a course that appears costly in human and economic terms. Not only will media be covering the political aspect of COVID already mentioned, but the deliberations that have begun as back to school decisions are made, or not made, among various jurisdictions. And it is during the fourth quarter that we will see the fallout from those actions. And that doesn’t even get into other ongoing debates, such as the existence and enforcement of mask mandates and new efforts to utilize old medicines.

Thirdly, there is the economy. The stunning negative developments are jaw-dropping and recovery is not only uncertain at this juncture, but given the transmission rates seen in most of the country, there could be further retrenchment. While another extensive shutdown may not happen, there will certainly be discussion for the need and that discussion itself may have an impact.

Finally, there is that vaccine thing and the data and regulatory milestones associated with it as well as public discussions about safety and efficacy. Vaccine candidates are already entering Phase III trials and are being conducted in impressive numbers of people. Preliminary results from those trials are going to start coming in during the fourth quarter. Not only will that be happening on the COVID-19 front, but there will also be the possible emergence of new treatments as FDA gets closer to a decision on approving the use of a treatment with convalescent plasma and wider use of such a treatment would be the subject of media scrutiny.

A smart colleague of mine did some analyses of media coverage during the early days of the pandemic. Needless to say, the events of this year have commanded (and demanded) a huge amount of attention. The final quarter of the year stands poised to really suck out almost all of the oxygen in the room, so to speak, with implications in healthcare for data milestones of non-COVID-related treatments as well as corresponding regulatory developments, such as approvals or FDA acceptances of new drug applications and, in turn, presents a challenge for medical meetings occurring during the second half of the year as well as any launches of new medicines.

Anyone seeking to gain some earned media coverage should at the very least be considering a strategy, is possible, that combines a social presence with some paid promotion. It at least will afford a pathway for gaining some of our attention. Holding that attention will be another thing.

It will be good to see 2020 step aside.

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

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