The public relations minefield that is Big Pharma

When I used to teach public relations classes on things like Reputation Management or Crisis Communications, I taught the old PR maxim about “depositing in the bank of goodwill” out there.  Simply put, the better you or your organization are at honourable citizenship on a day-to-day basis, the more public goodwill you’ll build up in this account, and the more others will be wiling to trust you.

And vice versa: the more slimy your ongoing behaviour, the less you can realistically expect anybody to trust you. Yes, even when you are telling the truth.

The good news is that, when your balance in the bank of goodwill is healthy, your chances of that trust remaining stable even if you do something bad are improved.  So if you should need to make a “withdrawal” one day when a crisis hits, you’ll have the social capital of public trust nicely tucked away in that bank.

It’s also why Phillip Ball – the London-based science journalist, former editor of Nature, and the author of Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything – is taking aim at Big Pharma, and particularly at British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Continue reading

Paying celebrities to shill your drugs

Allergan’s Latisse is an eyelash-growing drug prescribed to treat a condition called hypotrichosis. This is a condition of no hair growth (not to be confused with the condition of alopecia, which describes hair loss where formerly there was hair growth).  That’s not how Allergan chose to describe the condition of hypotrichosis on its Latisse Patient Information sheet:

“Hypotrichosis is another name for having inadequate or not enough eyelashes.”

But as John Mack astutely notes in Pharma Marketing News:

“I imagine asking a woman if she has ‘adequate’ or ‘enough’ eyelashes is like asking a man if he has a ‘big’ enough or ‘hard’ enough penis. It is unlikely, therefore, that any woman wouldn’t want to try Latisse at least once.”

How then to get more women to ask more doctors to help sell more of this eyelash-growing drug?  Hire a famous person to pitch your product! Enter professional celebrity-for-hire (Volkswagen-Ford-Coppertone-LaZBoy-Colgate-Tupperware) Brooke Shields, who explains on her Latisse video diary how she also became a paid shill for this Allergan drug:      , Continue reading

Is ugliness a disease?

Something strange is happening in medicine, according to physician,  bioethicist and author Dr. Carl Elliott in his landmark article in The Guardian called Is Ugliness a Disease?  No longer, he claims, is medicine being used merely to cure illness. Medicine is now being used in the pursuit of happiness. We take Viagra at bedtime and Ritalin before work. We inject Botox into our wrinkled brows and rub Rogaine on our balding heads. We swallow Paxil for shyness, Prozac for grief, and Buspar for anxiety.

“For stage fright we use beta blockers; for excessive blushing and sweating, we get endoscopic surgery. We ask surgeons to trim down our noses and suck fat from our thighs in the pursuit of what we believe to be our true selves.  Continue reading