Transparency or spin control?

John Mack at the Pharma Marketing Blog has some interesting things to say about how the pharma industry is dealing with the latest PR crises. A snip:

    The industry's strategy seems to be all about spin and damage control and nothing about transparency or using other, non-traditional approaches. Sometimes, it seems that the industry merely cranks out PR about being transparent without actually being transparent.

    Last year, for example, pharma companies announced initiatives to list all pharma-supported clinical trials on Web sites. Yet a Boston Globe article published in January entitled "Drug firms lagging on openness" states "six months after the drug industry vowed to make its clinical trials more transparent, and three months after launching a common website to give the public 'unprecedented access' to studies both good and bad, drug companies have posted unpublished trial results on the site for just five drugs."

    Maybe things have changed since January regarding the situation with clinical trials

Not from what I've been hearing, John.

    but there are signs that pharma companies are still having problems with the transparency thing.

It looks like the Pharmaceutical Public Relations and Communications Summit is going to include a session on blogging, which I can't in a million years see big pharma doing. Many companies have a gag order on their employees that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to interview anyone for articles, even if we allow them to review their quotes and funnel them through legal.

Which is a crying shame, because most of the folks I know on the pharma side are dedicated to improving healthcare, to maintaining integrity through the drug development process, and to ensuring that the bright line between promotion and education is never crossed. Frankly, I think a lot of the PR nightmares would fade if employees were allowed to talk about what's really going on, instead of letting the press do a hatchet job on them and then run shrieking for cover. If they were allowed to show us their reality, I think it would go a long way toward making companies more honest and open.

I agree with John, it would be great. But it ain't going to happen without a major revolution in the corporate mindset. And in today's lawyer-happy environment, everything I've seen is in the other direction, where legal has to approve pretty much every word anyone utters. I can't imagine what could happen to make that change. Can you?

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