What is the Best Policy?
How do you market your products and successfully to customers who are increasingly becoming skeptical? By being honest. Transparent. By showing integrity in all your actions and activities. Integrity is no longer idealistic. It is a necessity. It is the need of the hour for pharmaceutical industry in particular.
There is a general perception that pharma industry has to be forced to tell the truth. That is the biggest damage of all. Which is better, voluntary disclosure or forced disclosure? Of course voluntary disclosure. And yet pharma industry never disclosed anything until forced. That is the public sentiment and perception. Consider what happened to tobacco industry. They resisted, resisted and resisted as long as they could. The pharma industry is coming under such pressure.
Fierce Pharma reported that eleven of the leading drug majors such as Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Abbott, Johnson & Johnson, Serono, GSK in the US have agreed to pay a total of $14 billion for their marketing offenses committed over the past ten years. Whistleblowers filed more than 900 suits last year.
Recently in September 2012, Ben Goldacre, a British physician-academician published a book, Bad Pharma, which describes how drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients. He argues in the book that drug firms finance most of the clinical trials into its products, and that the industry would routinely withhold negative data. The ABPI (The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), the trade association in the UK for pharmaceutical companies issued a statement arguing that the examples the book offers are historical that the concerns have been addressed, that the industry is among the most regulated in the world, and that it discloses all data in accordance with international standards.
What is more, trust is the back bone of any relationship and marketing activity is a relationship between the manufacturer and consumer. People expect pharmaceutical products to cure their diseases. If they start hurting them either due to side effects, inefficacy the trust is broken almost to the point of betrayal. Another question that keeps popping up these days is why these drugs are so expensive, when generics are so cheaper? Why can’t everything be a generic? The public doesn’t care about the recovery of high R&D costs or the very low probability of new drug discovery pushing the ever-escalating costs still higher.
All these things are happening at a time when the industry is paying enormous fines for alleged malfeasance. It is almost coming to a vortex. The only way to rebuild the eroding trust is through disclosure, disclosure, and disclosure. The only option is to operationalize integrity. It is important to ask and answer some vital questions:
- How do you treat your customers? As partners or sources of revenue?
- Is your marketing message technically legal, but inherently misleading?
- How focused are you in building your share of credibility?
Building credibility and regaining the trust is possible only through inculcating a culture of integrity-based marketing. To internalize integrity across the rank and file of the organization, it is important to define integrity, measure integrity and recognize integrity. It is axiomatic that what we measure is what we get. Integrity is not only practical that way, but will also be your most sustainable competitive advantage.
Ultimately, both in life and in business honesty is the best policy.