In an email to the Pharma Marketing list-serv, John Mack said rather more eloquently what I was trying to say at the end of my most recent post:
Another message that this jury sent was: Don’t bury us in scientific/medical jargon. Make it easy for consumers to understand the facts.
But the science was actually beside the point as far as this jury was concerned. They felt that Merck lied or held back important information and did so to protect sales (Merck was incriminated by its own memos!). Someone has to be held accountable for that — this is the main message the jury sent.
The industry doesn’t get this message. All the analysis and talk from pharma execs is about how this is going to make pharma companies more cautious in developing drugs for general health conditions in the future. They’re changing their story that all drugs are risky and patients need to understand that to most drugs are too risky for us to develop in the first place. The execs who are saying this may be listening only to their lawyers, which is a shame.
The pharma industry needs to LISTEN TO ITS CUSTOMERS and really put patients first and be transparent and not cover up the truth or twist results from clinical trials (e.g., changing the endpoint to produce more favorable outcome results) and not dodge questions from docs to protect sales.
John has more to say over on his blog about what went wrong for Merck, in an article called Jury as Focus Group (although at $253m that’s one hell of an expensive focus group!). We both believe that greater transparency about the risks and rewards of pharmaceuticals will be good for everyone in the long run.