by Krissy Goelz
Recently I had the privilege of attending the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Woman of the Year Luncheon and hearing a very inspiring speech by Freda Lewis-Hall, the 2011 Woman of the Year. Addressing over 2,500 industry colleagues, Dr. Lewis-Hall began with an obvious yet often unspoken question: Why is an industry, whose mission is to help improve the health and treatment options of patients, often viewed with skepticism and thought of as a non-trustworthy establishment by the very same patients the industry is trying to help? Dr. Lewis-Hall challenged us, as industry leaders, to change this perception and have patients appreciate all the good the industry is capable of providing. I couldn’t agree more with her challenge.
Fresh out of college, as many individuals, I had (and still have) dreams of making the world a better place, and had planned on working for AmeriCorps until I was waitlisted… indefinitely. My very German, pragmatic and driven family did not take very well to the idea of me waiting around for something to happen and insisted I find a job – quickly. A friend of a friend of a close but not related family member offered my mom an interview for me. A few days later I was on the LIRR into the city and my family did not want to hear anymore about me not wanting to work for “the man”.
At my interview, I met two inspiring women who had just started up a new agency. These women introduced me to the pharmaceutical industry and spoke of ways their profession was educating physicians about recent advances in medicine and how patients were learning about new and better options for disease management. My eyes lit up as I heard of a career that could provide the stability my family wanted for me while fulfilling my desire to make a difference in the world.
Twelve years later I still feel very proud of the work within the industry. I’ve seen and have been part of many programs that create disease awareness, support patient needs and improve treatment compliance – all which translate to the better health of our friends, family members and colleagues. I’ve also seen the industry as a major supporter in finding cures for large and small diseases and providing treatment options for those in need.
So, I can’t help but wonder, why do our patients not trust us? Is it because of the omnipresent threat from the FDA, who appears to be always on the ready to reprimand the industry? If our own government doesn’t trust us, I can understand why the general patient population is skeptical. Is it because of all the legal information and scary warnings that need to be front and center of every pamphlet, website and commercial talking about the product risks in the same sentence (or previous sentence) as the benefits? Is it the industry’s inability to be true partners to the patients and participate in discussions on sites like Twitter because fair balance won’t fit in 140 characters and Facebook has yet to provide an option to clarify and automate adverse event reporting?
What ever the reason or reasons, it is time for a change. Change may come from within the industry, from the FDA or through patient groups, but wherever the ground swell begins, I hope it starts soon. And on many fronts. We are only depriving those who need us the most of all the knowledge and support we can give. Too much good is being lost.