PhRMA Transparency — Less See-Through Than You’d Think

July 17, 2008

A few days ago PhRMA outlined its new rules for drug reps. The headline requirement was a ban on freebie pens and coffee mugs. You can read the details here. (Say goodbye to the Viagra hammer!)

At the press conference, which I attended telephonically, I asked PhRMA CEO Billy Tauzin about the requirements for those companies that sign on to the voluntary new rules. CEOs will be asked to certify annually that their reps are obeying the guidelines. And companies must report at least once every three years on the results of their efforts to police their reps internally. Tauzin responded that companies will be supplying PhRMA with their certifications, and PhRMA will post them on its web site. “Transparency” was Tauzin’s word of the day.

Fair enough. But what is PhRMA’s record like when it comes to following up its own transparency efforts? Let’s look at its most recent effort in this area: The enforcement of its own rules on consumer drug advertising.

Every time someone complains about drug advertising to PhRMA, the lobby group alerts the responsible drug company. Annually, PhRMA compiles a report on its efforts and the compliance levels of companies who have pledged to advertise responsibly. The report is posted on its website.

But … at the time of writing the most recent report available covered calendar year 2006! The report for 2007 is already about a month late.

So the bar hasn’t been set very high.

I currently have a request pending to interview Tauzin for Brandweek magazine. I’d like to ask him about this. To be honest, I think Tauzin does actually understand that the drug industry has a huge image problem that needs fixing. He told my former colleague Alicia Mundy (now at the WSJ) that his message for pharma industry chiefs is, “Your house is on fire, and you’re still smoking in bed.” Those are the words of a man who understands, intellectually, how much trouble he is in.

The only question is, Does his industry believe that an 18-month response time is acceptable or not?

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2 Responses to “PhRMA Transparency — Less See-Through Than You’d Think”

  1. Matt Hanson Says:

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson


  2. […] This was a laudable effort given the recent controversy over whether Big Pharma should disclose the cash and gifts it spreads around the medical profession. […]


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