Part of what I try to accomplish in this space is to provide communications advice that might make the business of drug development, approval and marketing a better process. A new development in news from last week puts today’s focus on the issue of issues management and proactive planning.
As you may recall, in response to a story about a report from the FTC on drug company payments to generics to stay off the market – PhRMA offered a "no comment" in response to questions about the Federal Trade Commission push to outlaw the practice of paying off generic firms so that they keep their products from market in order to enjoy longer exclusivity for the brand name.
I’m not talking about the substance of the article here, I’m talking about form.
"No comment" is the equivalent of "I don’t know what to say" and it doesn’t do much to get your point of view into a story. While it is not possible to anticipate every single circumstance that may develop in the course of doing business, it is possible to anticipate a lot of them. Certainly this issue was predictable. So why not invest a little upfront in some planning that allows you to appear proactive AND gets your point across AND makes it look like you are on the ball.
This is about simple issues management:
- mapping out the issues you face
- engaging in scenario planning, and
- the development of a playbook complete with messages on the range of topics and situations
It is not inordinately expensive and anyone involved in this business – on any side of it – will inevitably use it.
Since this story broke, PhRMA president and CEO Billy Tauzin told FDA News that the FTC position was spurious and that the companies were free to settle their lawsuits over generics in any way that they saw fit (while not focused on the substance here, I think he has a point).
By issuing a "no comment" at the time of the story and then coming back afterward with a position is the communications equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse has gone. You don’t get your message in the story, your point of view is not there to help shape opinion, and perspective on you is formed in a vacuum. So do the scenario planning, devise the playbook and be prepared for breaking issues.
By the way – on the substance of the issue, by the way, when he was Congressman Billy Tauzin, he had this to say about generic drugs – "As a Congress and as a nation, we must ensure that competition in the drug marketplace remains vibrant. Without adequate competition, all Americans would pay too much for their drugs."
It is a Congressman’s right to change his mind.