If you have been thinking about going into business as a public relations flack, and hoped to do a lot of work with drug and biotech companies, here's a few tips on what not to do.
The New York Times:
--has noted the questions raised by a cancer drug called Folotyn, manufactured by Allos Therapeutics. The drug received FDA approval back in September and the company plans to start marketing it in January. It was approved for a very rare cancer, peripheral T-cell lymphoma, which currently has no effective treatment, and that affects about 5600 Americans annually.
The company plans to charge $30,000 a month for this drug. Commonly used cancer drugs such as Avastin and Erbitux, for example, also accused of being over-priced, cost $8800 and $10,000 a month by comparison, respectively, says the Times. Moreover, the drug has been shown to shrink tumors but not to have any impact on mortality statistics.
The Times quotes James V. Caruso, chief commercial officer at Allos (whatever that is--do companies have non-commercial officers?), as defending the price by saying among other things that the cancer is so aggressive that no patient will be taking it for that many months, anyway.
So now we come to our lesson in PR strategies. If they ask you to defend the exhorbitant price of your cancer drug...
"Our treatment costs about the same as other treatments for other cancers."
"Many millions of dollars were spent doing the research needed to develop this drug."
"It's hard to put a price tag on hope as we continue to wage the war on cancer."
"This particular cancer is very rare and so the only way to bring the drug to market was to increase the price per patient, much as we hated to do that."
Do not say:
"Our drug is such a rotten drug, and people die so quickly with it, that they won't be around to spend that much money for very long anyway."
Hat tip also to PostScript and Jonas Hines for the original news and his own wry comment.