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Stand Up?

Should you take a stand on important issues?

It’s something many leaders are rubbling with right now.  Eric Topol MD wrote an article for the New Yorker recently about the potential for a new doctors’ organization that would enable physicians to take a stand on important issues affecting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Issues such as vaccines, drug pricing, climate change, stem cell clinics and false health claims spread by celebrities involved in lifestyle medicine businesses. 

In the article, he noted several female physician leaders who took on the NRA and claimed the lack of adequate gun control regulations not only as their lane but as their highway. What gave them the courage to stand up to the NRA?

Dr. Topol hypothesized that their courage was attributable to dealing with long-standing gender inequities in medicine. Possibly but it likely has more to do with their values and their frustration with the lack of change. 

Organizing to take a stand on important issues is commendable but also challenging. The values and interests of the group need to align for the group to have a powerful voice.

Whether physicians organize or not, they should be encouraged to bring their whole self to work as employees in leading edge companies do and to speak out on issues affecting the health and wellbeing of Americans. Otherwise, how can doctors be held accountable for the cost of healthcare if they can’t speak out on the biggest drivers of cost?

Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.~ Brené Brown

Valeant

There is a good documentary called the Drug Short that tells the story of Valeant to explain the problem with drug pricing in the US.

Valeant reportedly operated more like a hedge fund than a pharmaceutical company. The model was pretty simple:

1/ Buy companies that have a drug with a monopoly.

2/ Strip out the R+D so that the typical 18% spent on R+D goes to the bottom line.

3/ Raise prices on existing drugs.

The problem is that many of the drugs were life sustaining drugs for people in middle America who couldn’t afford to pay for them.

The company took extraordinary measures to bilk insurance companies for payment. To keep patients quiet about the issue, they provided just enough financial support to them through their advocacy efforts. 

Hillary Clinton started tweeting and talking about the issue during her campaign. Investors and board members could have looked into it and taken action, but they didn’t. They were reportedly paid large sums to look the other way. The company’s stock eventually tanked.

The returns on biotech companies now are largely due to price increases. The company’s can’t afford to lower their prices and profits. So nothing has changed yet.

Change in 2020 is likely because even though the pricing strategy is not illegal, many leaders feel that it is morally wrong.