Can the cancer moonshot help cure Big Pharma's big bad reputation?

Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden's cancer moonshot initiative has been celebrated for its exuberance and chided for its too-small budget. But InTouch Solutions CEO Faruk Capan thinks there's a less obvious reason pharma should get on board with the idea: It might help salvage the industry's floundering reputation.

"From conspiracy theories to valid issues, negative press about the industry abounds--much of it coming from politicians. Pharma's good work--that saves lives every day--often gets shunted out of the spotlight. The moonshot may be the time to put it back on stage," Capan wrote in a recent column for PM360.

FiercePharmaMarketing caught up with Capan recently to talk more about what he meant.

The cancer moonshot is an opportunity to partner with companies inside and outside of the industry and to show the good that pharma does for patients on a national stage, he said.

Dedication to patient outcomes has long been part of pharma DNA, it's just that pharma companies usually don't do a very good job of explaining that. Companies don't project a unified voice about the industry, Capan said, adding that they need to get better at explaining to consumers, politicians and even payers how things work in pharma. They could, for example, be more transparent about pricing and lay out evidence and outcomes that show exactly how a drug does more than just fix symptoms.

"I think pharma should open up its databases, participate in early trials and collaborate with each other for the cancer moonshot," Capan said. "Pharma also has the power and money to contribute."

While the national cancer collaboration could be a great public relations win for pharma, it's also a chance demonstrate its willingness to contribute and even sacrifice for the greater good.

Whether people believe it is up to the pharma companies.

Pharma reputation problems stem from communication deficits. As marketers, pharma companies need to explain and educate people--and politicians--about what they do in simple terms and transparently, Capan said.

But that doesn't necessarily require a moonshot. Capan said even smaller "slingshots"--an app that makes a patient experience better, or technology that facilitates better communication between a doctor and patient--can make a difference in working to change the big-picture reputation of pharma.

- see post at PM360