Merck chief: Pharma, regain America's trust!

Remember Merck CEO Dick Clark's talk about pharma's "trust deficit?" The drugmaker's chief dusted off last year's phrase for PhRMA's annual meeting, aiming to remind the industry that sales depend on regaining America's trust.

Industry executives have long complained that their missteps are trumpeted in the media while their good works are overlooked. And it's true that pharma's shortcomings have been splashed all over the papers and Internet since PhRMA's last meeting. Undisclosed payments to doctors? Check. Misleading DTC ads? Check. Ongoing liability lawsuits? Check. The list goes on.

But as Clark noted in his speech, Merck and other Big Pharmas have started disclosing payments to doctors and medical societies, even limiting those payments in some cases. The organization issued its own set of DTC standards, which might improve drugmakers' image. (Or might not; some think the standards aren't strict enough.)

Still, Clark thinks pharma can do more. For instance, the downward-facing economy has many consumers complaining about drug prices--and some skipping their pills to save money. Why not help make meds more affordable for those folks, he asks. Supporting healthcare reform would help, too, because drug prices won't seem so onerous if more people are insured. What about you? Any pharma-image polishing ideas out there?

- read the story in the San Antonio Express-News