CEO’s were making headlines last week for a host of reasons having absolutely nothing to do with the usual biopharma announcements.

  • BETTING: CEO of Spark Therapeutics, Jeff Marrazzo, bet Bluebird Bio CEO Nick Leschly, that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl. The wager: The winning city’s CEO would choose a patient group to receive donations from both companies. The losing CEO would dress as the winning CEO. When the Eagles won their 1st ever Super Bowl, Leschly who sports a “keeping it casual” style didn’t welch. Check out his Twitter channel documenting him looking a tad forlorn in a suit and tie.
  • BIOHACKING: Ascendance’s CEO, Aaron Traywick took it to another level last week, by injecting himself with his company’s never-before-tested, gene-altering experimental herpes medicines – all on Facebook Live. Traywick promised to report his response in a few weeks. So why do this? Traywick seeks to bring more transparency and engagement to medicine and likened his personal “biohacking” approach to self-testing of Jonas Salk and Luis Pasteur.
  • BYOD: We are not advocating that you bring your own drink (though you may desire to after reading this). Rather, we’re talking about the practice of “being your own doctor.” The Economist reveals how Internet and self-diagnostics are moving us from an era from where the doctor sees you – to the doctor BEING YOU.

Oh, and it’s been reported that next week, the Trump Administration is expected to propose new rules and legislative initiatives to reduce the cost of prescription drugs to Medicare patients. Coming on the heels of the bipartisan budget deal, the efforts will seek to shrink Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket costs by forcing manufacturers to help cover the so-called coverage “donut hole.”

Read on for The Week That Was...


In an article dripping with irony, WebMD reported that the emergence of Internet-based health websites and resources are increasing hypochondria. The trend has grown so pervasive that it has a name “cyberchondria.” It’s already making our TWTW team feel feverish… But in seriousness, for those who truly suffer from hypochondria, the ability to immerse oneself in chat rooms, self-diagnosis and disease awareness sites is debilitating and can make a hypochondriac’s work and relationships suffer. People with the condition aren't the only ones who pay the price; hypochondria incur billions in unnecessary medical tests and treatments.

Relatedly, The Economist asked whether “The doctor will BE you now?” Healthcare technologies are advancing rapidly, such as over-the-counter blood analysis and genome sequencing, smartphones and watches to monitor biometrics, apps to manage chronic conditions, and artificial intelligence to help diagnose and manage disease. The list goes on and on. With all of these technological advances and conveniences, people may be taking more autonomy over their health and medical information…leaving their doctor in the dust.


Will technology disrupt and replace the doctor? Not entirely, but patients taking control over their health and pushing for greater access and portability of their personal medical records is a trend rapidly advancing; and for good reason. It may reduce inefficiencies in treatment and enhance patient care. But, there are risks too. Patients too confident in their health prognosis may opt out of optimal insurance, skip physician well visits, self-treat, and misinterpret records. In a world that is quickly growing to support patient autonomy, providers and insurers must empower patient involvement in their care, but stay engaged in a dialogue surrounding self-captured data.


A coalition of 44 organizations banded together last week to support the HR 2212, aka the CREATES Act. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act is a bipartisan initiative to promote competition between branded medicines and more affordable generics and biosimilars. The ultimate goal: facilitate competition and faster market entry of generics. How will CREATES do this? The Act would force branded and biologic drug makers to share the chemical quantity information or biological products information. Without an adequate amount of the branded medicine, the FDA is unable to test for bioequivalence, bio similarity, or interchangeability – a requirement for regulatory approval. Supporters of the CREATES Act argue some license holders of biologic and branded products are behaving as ‘bad actors’ by keeping generic manufacturers from obtaining the chemical amounts necessary to create a biosimilar. They argue tools like patent extensions, new formulations, and pay-for-delay strategies are designed to maintain protections for high-cost branded medicines.


At the heart of CREATES is a debate about drug makers securing new patents to extend the life-cycle of their therapy beyond traditional protections. The CREATES Act aims to prevent such strategies from being abused and misused. But not all patent-extenders are ne’er-do-wells. Many companies spend incredible amounts of resources on research after the medicine has been approved to explore its efficacy in other related diseases. Such practices are common in cancer, for instance. To avoid being mischaracterized in this debate, medicines makers need to ensure the story surrounding the additional value created is being told to patients, physicians and policymakers – contextualizing what it means to their outcomes and care. If passed, the CREATES Act will answer the question of, “How do we keep companies from deliberately withholding information for their own benefit?” And force good actors to answer, “How can we better show how the research and new indications we seek are changing lives and medicine?”

We leave you with some of the best messaging (spin) we’ve seen in a long time. The Tesla roadster was launched into space with the goal of reaching Mars. When the Telsa missed the planet, Elon Musk announced that the roadster exceeded expectations as it headed towards the Asteroid Belt.

Until next week,

- the Reputation & Risk Management Practice @ Syneos Health Communications

About the Author:

We are a team of healthcare communicators, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. Drawing upon professional experiences from Congress, CMS, HHS, hospitals, and health technology—and our collective work in rare disease, oncology, diabetes, gene therapy, pain management and infectious disease—we provide unique solutions to the evolving messaging challenges in today’s healthcare industry. We support our clients with evidence-based approaches to preventing pricing pushback, protecting brands from modern activism, establishing and communicating clear policies surrounding expanded access to medicines, and a proactive approach to value frameworks. Our offerings also include product safety, litigation, regulatory risks, ex-U.S. considerations and policymaker investigations.