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Relationship building As a veteran public-relations professional, long-time volunteer, and current member of the American Cancer Society (ACS), Eastern Division Board, serving New York and New Jersey, I would like to comment on Roger Sullivan’s letter (published in October 2004) in response to the article “Improving Advocacy Relations” in the August 2004 issue of PharmaVOICE. First, I agree with Mr. Sullivan’s view that trusted, long-term, mutually beneficial advocacy partnerships between third-party organizations and pharmaceutical companies are the only kind worth developing to achieve meaningful results that help patients and their caregivers and foster the goodwill needed by the industry, especially at this time when it is so frequently under attack. I also agree with Mr. Sullivan’s position that both public-relations agencies and pharma companies often fall short in this regard. But during my 30+ years of experience in advocacy relations from all perspectives — as a PR professional, volunteer, and a member of the staff of a voluntary health organization — I have learned that many who work for pharmaceutical companies and healthcare public-relations firms do so because they want to make a difference. I also have worked closely with personally committed pharma executives who believed in building the right kinds of partnerships. When these work, they provide vital support — both for a company’s business objectives and for the advocacy partners’ missions and goals. There are many shining examples of effective alliances among voluntary health organizations, government agencies, seniors’ groups, multicultural organizations, caregiver groups, professional societies, healthcare institutions, and pharma companies, supported by their agencies of record. These programs have successfully educated patients, increased awareness, generated calls to action for an important cause, or helped speed up the drug approval process for breakthrough therapies that have saved or extended millions of lives. In the 1980s, AstraZeneca and Burson-Marsteller created a partnership with key cancer organizations and breast cancer advocacy groups to create Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which, as we all know, is now one of the most successful national healthcare cause-related campaigns in history. In 1990, while at Burson-Marsteller, I was honored to be on the team that helped to form partnerships with the National Cancer Institute, AARP, American Foundation for Urologic Disease, American Urologic Association, CancerCare, as well as Schering-Plough, to create Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, which has since grown exponentially into a month-long national campaign. This important initiative brought out in the open the disease that is the second-biggest cancer killer of men. Now the topic is no longer taboo and millions of men, aged 40 and older, have been encouraged to seek regular screenings because, when detected early, prostate cancer can often be cured. Another more recent best-practice example that has received significant media attention is the alliance created by Novartis with the National Cancer Institute, the FDA’s Clinical Liaison Office, ACS, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and other key patient groups to encourage participation in clinical trials during the development of Gleevec as a potential breakthrough therapy for chronic myeloid leukemia. Supported by the public-relations firm Ruder Finn, this initiative provided the opportunity for these organizations to work together to reach out to physicians and patients about the trials available for the diseases being studied for the product. It was this team effort that helped to recruit 8,000 to 10,000 patients globally and speed up the FDA review-to-approval process so that patients could have access sooner to a drug that has proven to make a significant difference in saving lives and advancing the science for developing more targeted cancer therapies. Related to diseases of aging and their effects on caregivers, another stellar example is Eisai Inc.’s award-winning program Caring to Help Others: A Training Manual for Preparing Volunteers to Assist Caregivers of Older Adults. This was developed through long-term advocacy relationships with AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater New Jersey Chapter, the Hospice Association of America, the Interfaith Caregivers Alliance, the National Alliance for Caregiving, the National Association for Home Care, the National Council on the Aging, the National Family Caregivers Association, and Towson University’s Department of Gerontology. This free comprehensive training program is being used by more than 12,000 community and nonprofit organizations across the United States and is available via its own Website. Eisai continues to collaborate successfully with several organizations on new initiatives to serve the needs of caregivers. This exemplary project was created because Eisai became aware of the burdens on family members caring for older loved ones while the company was conducting research related to Aricept, its Alzheimer’s treatment, which it copromotes with Pfizer. I was deeply involved in this project because I personally experienced the challenges of the caregiver and family as my father deteriorated over a decade and finally died from complications of this devastating disease. These are just a few examples; I’m sure history is replete with others. PharmaVOICE would serve the industry well to do a follow-up article highlighting best practices in advocacy relations for other companies to emulate. It would be important to provide perspective from the companies, PR agencies, and the third-party advocacy organizations. It is imperative that pharma companies do a better job of providing service to their customers for the higher good. Establishing and nurturing these high-quality alliances that build trust and mutually beneficial friendships are critical at a time when the industry can use a healthy dose of both. Teri P. Cox Senior Managing Partner Cox Communications Partners Editor’s Note: In response to Ms. Cox’s letter, as well as feedback from other industry executives who voiced interest in exploring this topic further, PharmaVOICE will publish a follow-up article on advocacy-relations programs in its May 2005 issue. PharmaVOICE welcomes contributions to this article. Please contact Taren Grom, Editor, at email@example.com, with any information pertaining to this topic. HMC addresses business challenges in 2005 The most significant challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry in 2005 will be the critical need to restore its image as an industry that develops and markets safe and effective prescription drugs. Constant attacks on the safety of prescription drugs, fueled more recently by the Vioxx withdrawal and questions about the safety of Celebrex and Aleve, have created an undercurrent of significant concern among healthcare professionals and patients. This concern extends beyond the products in question. With the continuing news media focus on these stories often downplaying information that might provide some balance to these reports, one can expect the significant current problems of patient compliance with prescription medications to become an even more troubling problem than it already is today. At the HMC Council, in 2005, we will be dedicating our educational initiatives to help industry assess and deal with some of these growing environmental threats to appropriate patient care. On January 27, the HMC Industry Forum of public policy experts focused on the Impact of the 2004 Elections on the industry. The luncheon speaker, Joe Graedon, a leading consumer voice on prescription drugs, discussed these and other issues and the current challenges to the industry. Joe Graedon’s syndicated column, the People’s Pharmacy, and radio program reach thousands of consumers on an ongoing basis. A March 16th meeting, Communicating Risk Information on Prescription Drugs in the Post-Vioxx Environment, will provide a broad discussion of FDA regulatory requirements, practical assessments and advice for marketing prescription drugs, as well as handling issues for drugs under development. Through programs such as these, and our annual meeting in October, it is our goal to assist the industry and our members by providing important insight into critical issues affecting their business, as well as practical advice from experts on how to deal with these growing challenges. Kenneth P. Berkowitz President HMC Council Editor’s Note: For more information about the HMC and for meeting locations, please visit hmc-council.org. Year in Preview The December Year in Preview issue of PharmaVOICE is terrific. Congratulations to the staff for logically presenting such a diverse range of viewpoints on such a wide range of critical topics. It concisely captures many key industry issues and sets the stage for the year ahead. Stephen J. Rose Group Publisher and General Manager Healthcare Informatics magazine The McGraw-Hill Companies LETTERS Making A Difference Editor’s Note: PharmaVOICE once again thanks the more than 100 industry executives who raised their VOICE in the December Year in Preview issue. PharmaVOICE looks forward to exploring the various themes identified by these thought leaders throughout the year, and in December 2005 we will again report on the state of the life-sciences industry.