The industry moves also come amid a backdrop of renewed drug pricing talks in Congress, where lawmakers are readying their wish lists for a fourth coronavirus relief package. Democrats and Republicans alike have said that the possibility of coronavirus cures and vaccines within the year necessitates new drug pricing measures.
Pharmaceutical companies developing coronavirus cures and vaccines are looking to change that conversation and emphasize the life-changing products they could bring to the table. The industry has been on the defensive for years on drug pricing, generic competition and market exclusivity; the president himself said days before assuming office that the companies were “getting away with murder.”
“This allows them to remind customers, or potential customers, and elected officials why they exist and the benefits they can bring,” Heye said. “It’s not just a different conversation in topic, it’s a different conversation in tone. It moved from an almost universally negative conversation to a positive one.”
Johnson & Johnson, which is aiming for an emergency authorization for its potential vaccine in early 2021, said this week that it plans to offer the booster on a “not-for-profit” basis. The company’s web series aims to demystify the vaccine development for consumers, said Seema Kumar, J&J’s global leader for innovation, health and scientific communications, who has spearheaded the J&J show.
“People are so hungry for information. One of the things that science, and progress in science, provides is hope,” said Kumar. “Whenever our chief science officer talks about the vaccine, people go away feeling like somebody is working on something that is going to be helping everybody.”
The company’s second episode will answer viewer questions and there are talks to expand with partnerships for the show in countries like India. More than 50,000 people worldwide tuned into the first livestream and it later racked up 80,000 views on LinkedIn.
Others are more cynical about the effort. NYU’s Morten argued that the first J&J episode focuses on the company effort without acknowledging hundreds of millions of dollars poured in from the government at this point.
“A TV show that takes the American public around the sparkling, shiny, fancy-looking science labs at J&J is the perfect foundation for a fight six months from now over the prices that J&J is targeting,” said Morten.