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November 1, 2009
Drug Companies Overdose on Prices

 Some folks, drug companies in this case, have no shame, or little sense of what constitutes effective PR. Good PR stems from doing the worthing something you say you'll do. Yet, after the drug companies promised to cut $8 billion a year from the nation's prescription costs as their contribution to health care reform, they are raising their prices before any insurance changes occur. That will allow them to "cut" costs from a handily inflated base, with little if any gain from reform. 

The New York Times reports that drug companies have raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent in the past year. That, says The Times, will add more than $10 billion to the nation's drug bill and, by one reckoning, is "the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992." This at a time when the Consumer Price Index overall has been dropping. 

Sure, drug companies are citing their usual justification for higher prices – research needs. Now, supposedly, patents on many of their drugs are soon to expire. So, however, is pharmaceutical credibility. 

A spokesman for Merck says with a straight face that "Price adjustments for our products have no connection to health care reform." Then why not lay off increases while reform is pending, or not be so emphatic about them?

The pharmaceutical price hikes are an anger generator,  the opposite of enlightened PR in a period when the public is trying to take health care reform seriously. 


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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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