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The speed of science and the pace of comms

Pharma red tape slows comms but there is a solution, Paul Hutchings, founder of fox&cat, writes.

By moving faster than ever during the pandemic, pharma companies showed just how quickly they could turn treatments around when necessary. But can they do the same with their comms?

PharmaComms23 presented its attendees with a truly useful chocolate box of talks, panels and workshops, covering all kinds of topics. Yet there were themes which kept coming to light in a well-turned phrase or passing remark by presenters, panellists and speakers alike. One of these, running like a slim golden thread throughout the proceedings was speed of comms in the pharma industry.

It was a passing comment from Clara Bentham, Head of Corporate Affairs UK and Ireland at Sanofi who first mentioned speed – of both science and comms. Like her three fellow panellists from GSK, Takeda and MHP Group – she had spoken articulately and entertainingly about emotions, data and insights. But Clara also mentioned people’s new expectations of the pharma industry post-Covid, how they wanted the same rapid turnaround that happened at the height of the pandemic – which in turn puts pressure on comms teams to deliver faster in terms of campaigns and conversations.

And in the instant world of social media, there’s a similar expectation from pharma companies, matched only by the slowly melting reluctance of those companies to harness social media fully – and often for good reason, as we saw during the eye-opening presentation from Dr Rina Newton, ABPI Code and Compliance expert, on navigating regulation frameworks. Then there was Michael Bradley, Associate Director, Corporate Affairs at Bristol Myers Squibb, who also expounded upon the rise in reputation of pharma companies during and immediately after the pandemic, the new audience expectation – and the subsequent failure to meet that expectation.

Clearly, therefore, speed of both operation and communication is a divisive issue: the world and its 100-mile-an-hour workings expect it – and agencies, it seems, would like it too; the industry, on the other hand, is more than a little wary of it, because speed is often how mistakes are made. And mistakes in healthcare can prove profit-drainingly costly.

Approval and regulation are the chief sticking points, of course – the weeks and months spent in data-gathering and then red-tape doldrums. And it occurred to us at fox&cat that there could be a solution to the latter at least. What if all pharma companies – for the sake of quicker responses to, and conversations with, the patients to whom they are dedicated – pooled their resources to create a shared global regulation hub? A large, brand-neutral, AI-driven, slickly efficient machine of an organisation, the sole purpose of which is to ensure that all relevant codes and frameworks are being adhered to, but in the most efficient and accurate possible way? Yes, it would be a significant investment, yet the value of it to the reputation of the industry as a whole would be immeasurable. Is such a thing even possible, you ask? We think so.

So, then we just need to come up with a solution to faster treatment delivery, which would be of even greater value – not just to the industry, but more importantly to the healthier lives of people everywhere. But that’s going to take a little more thought.

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30th March 2023



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