New Internationalist

Pressure Points

Issue 362

How Big Pharma reacts when a drug scandal breaks

1 - Denial

Side-effects and unforeseen deaths are part of the deal when you’re pushing drugs. It’s when the media and the activists start snooping around that the problems start. Fightback strategies

  • Deny everything.
  • Take the high road. Accuse the media of sensationalism.
  • Attack the accuracy of their reporting.

2 - Shutdown

As evidence mounts that problems are serious, politicians get in on the act, mouthing off to the media and threatening to call in the regulators. Fightback strategies

  • Boycott the media and starve the rat pack.
  • Claim there’s a conspiracy – rival companies, lefty journos and other vested interests are out to get you.

3 - Extricate

What a pain! Here come the regulators, poking and prying. Fightback strategy

  • Call in the high-priced lawyers to search for an escape route.

4 - Purge

Things are getting a bit too hot – there are stiffs all around and the threat of ‘incontrovertible evidence’ looms. The regulators are recalling the drug. Fightback strategies

  • Find a fall guy – preferably some old fogey in R&D who oversees trials and tests and is about to retire anyway.
  • Pay them to take the rap and then say it was all their fault.

5 - Compensate

With the fall guy behind bars, the company escapes unscathed and it’s back to business as usual. Except for those pesky victims’ families and their lawsuits. Fightback strategy

  • Settle – offer big bucks as compensation, but only if they agree there was no malpractice.

Now everything’s running smoothly again, put it down to experience and move on – there’s money to be made.

Based on a scenario in Jeffrey Robinson’s Prescription Games (Simon & Schuster 2001).

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