The government shutdown is officially the longest in history and the impact is broadening without an end in sight. Federal workers are reportedly rationing their medicines. The White House is serving fast food to star athletes. And, the FDA is furloughing more employees and suspending “lower priority” tasks to preserve money for new drug reviews for a few more weeks.

Nearly 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns have been launched by people impacted by the shutdown. We’re guessing a lot of these are for healthcare costs as new data from Kaiser Health News found one third of GoFundMe campaigns are in the medical category. With more than $1.5 billion raised for those causes, loved ones are showing their value in times of need.

We hope you can “get by with a little help from your friends”… and our roundup of this week’s news, a look at what's on the docket, and our take on Gillette’s new ad.


14 Monday

 While R’s and D’s can’t agree on a budget deal, what they can agree on is that drug pricing is a high priority. The House Oversight Committee announced an investigation into 19 branded drugs and a hearing for January 29. At this time of intense scrutiny, having your value narrative has never been more important!

15 Tuesday

 Talking about value: Netflix announced a price hike amidst growing competition from Hulu and new platforms like Disney+, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal’s recently announced service. Mooching viewers everywhere are dismayed.

16 Wednesday

 Hospitals are blaming rising drug costs for layoffs. A new study funded by the American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists found that hospital spending on drugs increased 18.5% between 2015 and 2017. To ease the strain, more than 90% of hospitals used alternative therapies and 25% reduced staff. 

17 Thursday

 Patient groups are joining with doctors in a new ad campaign advocating against the Administration’s proposed changes to Medicare Part D’s protected classes. The groups say the new policy could cost lives.

18 Friday

 ICER announced a new annual analysis that will evaluate significant prescription drug increases and determine whether or not new clinical evidence exists to support them. The group will accept public comments to their draft protocol for the analysis until February 13.

On the Docket 

RBG’s bed rest did not stop movement on a number of cases this week. Here’s a quick look at some of the suits on our radar: 

  • Medicare was before SCOTUS on Tuesday, in a case that may have implications for how the government can go about making changes to reimbursement rules. Azar v. Allina Health Services centers around the administration’s authority and whether the government can make changes to benefits, payment of services, or eligibility without notice or public comment.
  • New documents were released in “the everybody v. Purdue Pharma” lawsuit showing the strategy behind the company’s engagement with top Boston academic medical centers. Also revealed: the Sackler family’s dreams about “a blizzard of prescriptions.” While it is common practice to partner with healthcare providers on education initiatives, these new docs show the delicacy of the optics and serve as a reminder that everything is “discoverable.”
  • Health law nerds are debating whether SCOTUS will take up the controversial deal between Allergan and the Saint Regis Mohawk tribe to use tribal immunity to protect patents for its blockbuster Restasis. The high court posted a writ of certiorari from Allergan and the tribe, and according to FiercePharma, we’ll find out if they accept the case on February 11.

Don't hesitate to reach out to RRM Legal Comms Strategist, Amanda Eiber, who has been following the case closely.   Forward This


Close Shave or Deep Cut? 

If you haven’t yet seen it, take two minutes to watch the provocative new Gillette ad, The Best In Men. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, the ad calls for men to be the best they can be by changing how they treat women, and each other. The ad was released on the heels of the American Psychological Association’s official warning against toxic masculinity and its negative impact. The reaction has been varied, including some severe backlash from men’s rights groups, conservative news outlets and this guy named Joe. Some consumers are even committing violence against their Gillette razors…dare we say that’s a little ironic?

But Gillette was clearly prepared for some backlash, and has remained firm in their resolve to set “a new standard for our brand…to encourage and inspire the next generation to be its best.”

True to the recent trend of corporate activism, Gillette’s ad was likely motivated by both genuine internal interest in action on social issues and a strategic marketing push to meet the desires of younger consumers. Their spokesperson said: "Successful brands have to be relevant and engage consumers in topics that matter to them…This is especially true when it comes to younger consumers — a key demographic for us."

The case raises an interesting question for companies in this new era of purpose: how do we measure ‘success’ when it comes to action on social issues? For a head start, take a look at Morning Consult’s incredibly quick-turn research.

Our Take:

When it comes to healthcare, companies have been notably absent in the corporate activism movement. This approach might seem “safer,” but our own Dana Davis sees it as a risky strategy, that may have very real business implications for healthcare companies. “As so many other industries have learned,” Dana says, “there’s no way to opt out of activist targeting on social issues, regardless of the company’s political neutrality, published value statements, or degrees of separation between the brand and the consumer.”

Check out some of Dana’s tips in PM 360, and reach out to her with thoughts. Forward Thisblank

Who wrote this?  The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who is so excited that she finally conquered Ticketmaster and was able to secure tickets for The Who this spring, and Dana Davis, who has escaped to Arizona for the weekend.

Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations. 

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Image credits: Megaphone by Ralf Schmitzer from the Noun Project, Hospital by supalerk laipawat from the Noun Project, Magnifying Glass by ranjit kumar from the Noun Project, Scale by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun Project

About the Author:

Randi Kahn is a Senior Media & Content Director in our Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps clients build and protect their brand reputations through executive thought leadership, public affairs, and issues preparation and response. She has worked for clients throughout the healthcare ecosystem including payers, providers, patient groups and pharma.