Over the last few weeks many, it seems, have gone through the full range of emotions – from both a business and personal viewpoint – on the Trump presidency. We see many desperately trying to find meaning in the last election, and forecast the actions of the new administration in an attempt to find some form of relief to counter the surprise and shock of this brash and confrontational figure, now at the helm of the World’s only superpower. Could there be a silver lining? Is there cause for some sense of cultural or social optimism? The dust is now settling, but the jury is still out on many topics that will impact business and brand for years to come. One of particular significance could be the evolution of what we call Big-Pharma and how that might change for the better in the years ahead.
To begin, ‘Big Pharma’ – ie the global Pharmaceutical companies, don’t tend to illicit much by way of positive social sentiment. New or breakthrough drugs and drug regimes are often limited to the more wealthy and unavailable on healthcare programs, in the US or through the National Health Service in the UK.
Could this be one area that Trump’s interventionist stance on free market dynamics could generate some fairly immediate benefit for the consumer, and longer term would the Pharma goliaths benefit from taking some of Trump’s proposed medicine – they’ll certainly need the proverbial ‘spoonful of sugar’ to help it go down – a Trump prescription of more competitive pricing is unlikely to feel like a tonic to any drug company.
However, with Big Pharma regularly in the public cross-hairs – periodically characterised as dispassionate monopolists, Trump’s stated intention to introduce more competitive contract bidding to drive pricing down to market-driven equilibrium levels could deliver tangible patient benefits. A silver lining? One might say so.
This could, of course, mean a potentially less profitable future (certainly short-term) and therefore a scary reality for the industry, but importantly it could also create a longer-term market context that enhances brand, company and industry reputation, provides clearer differentiation, leads to longer-term relationships and therefore sustainable commercial return. From a brand perspective, and over the longer-term, fairer pricing could be the elixir (yes I know …another cringe-worthy play on words) that Big Pharma needs.
Key to this discussion are patients, carers and prescribing physicians, who have all seen drug prices rise precipitously, in a transactional market that is largely outcome focused and lacking empathy. Trump’s intervention could force business and encourage consumers to start to develop brand associations that move beyond clinical outcomes and extend to allow for an emotional dimension; relationships driven by a sense of fairness, value (and values) and perhaps a belief that the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industry might live up to the ultimate and widely-held ideal of being “patient-centric”, one which the industry has espoused for many years.
Will the Trumpian free-market infusion create a social impact that could address one of the great challenges in US society; the provision of, and access to, more affordable medications and therapies by all? Who really knows, and it is early days, but maybe some of the most effective parts of the Affordable Care Act will be retained and we may see a “perfect storm” of combined legislative efficacy with free-market dynamics. If so it could usher in a new era of progress for Big Pharma and its quest for patient-centricity. A silver lining? One can only hope.