During the seventies Glaxo sent a mailer to all doctors on its lists in India informing them of one isolated case of anaphylactic reaction with its B1B6B12 injection although it was not required by law at that time.
The mailer virtually killed an otherwise excellent product but earned the company the medical community’s immense trust in its probity. Glaxo could not have worked for stronger brand equity than what the mailer did although the company suffered a temporary setback.
Always remembering the raison d' être of the pharmaceutical industry as healthcare may be a sobering thought for pharma marketers even when commercial considerations are a compelling reason to cut corners to add a blockbuster.
Some pharmacology textbooks like the primer on the subject by Lawrence used to mention the Thalidomide Disaster as a warning. An alert FDA Commissioner, who felt that the drug was not adequately tested, halted thalidomide’s entry into the US. By then however, the damage was done in several European countries, which rushed to approve the drug as a safe tranquilizer for pregnant women. The appalling sequelae surfaced for nearly ten years after its first introduction.
Good Marketing Conduct (GMC)!
Pharma companies are often blamed for dumping hazardous drugs not marketed in their own countries (e.g. Analgin, Oxyphenbutazone and Phenylbutazone), in third world countries. Similarly they do not publicize warnings about side effects especially when they are prescribed for children. An example of this is diphenoxylate and atropine sulphate combination prescribed extensively as an anti-dirrhoeal in India. A question often raised is when GMP/GCP procedures are a must for procurement of drugs from third world countries why are not similar practices rigidly followed for marketing drugs.
The recent setback companies marketing COX2 inhibitors suffered and earlier withdrawal of terfenadine analogues are totally avoidable as the drugs (like thalidomide) are not in a class where they can be termed as necessary evil like immunosuppressive drugs or cytostatic agents.
Pharma companies the world over might learn from Glaxo’s India experience. Good Marketing Conduct (GMC) could well be the PR slogan for refurbishing their image.