Drugmakers want to use a campaign featuring poetry and lab coats to clear up its drug pricing problem


Go boldly ad screenshot


The drug industry's pricing problem has made its way up to the president.

In a press conference on January 11, President Donald Trump said that drug companies were "getting away with murder," and suggested that the US government needed to negotiate drug pricing. The president has also expressed interest in importing drugs from other countries to lower prices. 

These aren't the solutions biopharmaceutical companies necessarily want. So to push back, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pharmaceutical industry's largest trade and lobbying group, asked its members for $100 million more in dues in 2016, a 50% increase over its budget from the year before. Politico reported at the time that dues hadn't been this high since 2009, during Obamacare negotiations

With the funds, the organization's kicking off a multi-year campaign, titled "Go Boldly." It will focus on "revolutionary biopharmaceutical science" to start, PhRMA said in a news release. With all eyes focused on pricing debates about decades-old EpiPens and routine drug price increases, PhRMA's hoping to spin some of that attention onto the new medicine that the industry hopes to get approved over the next few years, including new Alzheimer's treatments, and new ways to approach cancer. 

The first advertisement features "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," the often-quoted 1947 poem written by Dylan Thomas, read alongside clips of scientists at lab stations and images of cells and patients. Here's the ad:


"Millions of Americans are battling serious illnesses, but they're not alone in the fight," an accompanying post explains. "They have the support of thousands of biopharmaceutical researchers whose lives are dedicated to helping patients go boldly into longer, healthier, and more productive lives."

This isn't the first ad campaign PhRMA's unleashed after drugmakers faced criticism. In February 2016, the group rolled out a series of videos and print ads that didn't directly address the issue of drug pricing, but rather focused on the industry's role in developing new treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Although the drug industry's reputation has been hit by anger against price hikes, the new innovations that could be coming to market - specifically new cancer drugs, rare disease drugs, and gene therapies - could come with high price tags that draw even more public outrage. Placing its focus on those new treatments could help the industry mitigate some of that outrage before it begins. 

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