We love the diversity of our TWTW readership; we’ve got biopharma leaders, healthcare press and consultants…and our readers span generations. But sometimes, it can be hard to find stories that appeal equally to all of you.

This week, though, we lucked out! In a generation-spanning pop culture story, Ariana Grande* became the first artist to simultaneously hold the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Billboard Hot 100 spots, since 1964, when The Beatles held the top three for five weeks. But the record-breakers have a difference of opinion on one critical issue. Grande’s No. 1 single asserts “whoever said money can't solve your problems, must not have had enough money to solve 'em” while The Beatles’ top song from ’64 recites: "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love."

We’ll leave it to you to decide who’s right and head back to our day job, recapping The Week That Was (while taking inspiration from Beatles and Grande lyrics).

*Who is Ariana? Hints: Cat ears, Pete Davidson and the phrase “Thank u, next.”



 Do you want to know a secret? 🎵The NYT profiled a mother who unexpectedly uncovered the identity of her sperm donor after her daughter took a 23andMe test. After attempting contact with the donor’s family, the mother received a letter from the sperm bank threatening legal action and fines. These issues are likely to continue, with a reproductive law expert noting it’s “become impossible” to protect donor privacy.


 Don’t want you in my bloodline…🎵The FDA cautioned against “young-blood transfusion,” the practice in which aging patients undergo plasma transfusions from young patients as an anti-aging technique. A SF startup, Ambrosia, was performing the procedure without a clinical trial to prove efficacy, pricing it at up to $12,000 for 2 liters. Following the FDA’s statement, Ambrosia issued a notice that it would stop offering transfusions.


 One and one and one is three. 🎵 Remember when Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway and JP Morgan announced that they would come together on healthcare? Well, thanks to a newly unsealed court document, we now have more information on their plan for the partnership. The venture is focused on bringing clarity to benefit design, emphasizing primary care and addressing drug costs.


 We’re in another mentality. 🎵 “Surprise” medical bills were in the news again with a heart-wrenching story out of Philadelphia that shed light on the issue of out-of-pocket expenses associated with pregnancy, childbirth and miscarriage. Also released this week was a Brookings report on state-based approaches to address surprise bills. These approaches include capping out-of-network provider rates or banning separate billing for out-of-network doctors at in-network facilities. 


 Tell me what you see. 🎵 Google announced plans to show Google Maps users where they can safely dispose unused medication. The initiative – a product of collaboration with the DEA, HHS, CVS, Walgreens and state governments – is a response to an increase in Google searches for “medication disposal near me,” which reached an all-time high last month. 


Pulse on Pricing

If you’re like us (super cool), you’ve already saved the date for this coming Tuesday, where seven pharma executives will be testifying about drug pricing in front of the Senate Finance Committee. What we can expect? A focus on price increases, a direct hit to insulin manufacturers, and certainly a few “gotcha” questions.

We’ll have a full recap for you next week, but in the meantime, we recommend STAT’s roundup on the “Gang of Seven.”blank


  Zuckerberg, Gottlieb and Schiff walk into a bar...

Ok, not exactly, but they did have something in common this week: they’re all grappling with issues surrounding the anti-vaccination movement.

The “anti-vaccination” movement has been widely debunked by experts, who worry about the impact on public health (e.g. the recent measles outbreak in Washington.) Yet, many parents refuse to vaccinate their children, citing religious or personal beliefs.

Last week, Senator Adam Schiff sent Mark Zuckerberg a valentine letter, expressing concern that Facebook (a.k.a. a ‘digital gangster’ per the British Parliament) is promoting content that discourages parents from vaccinating their children. Now, a week later, Facebook is considering approaches that would make it more difficult to find anti-vaccine content and stop recommending anti-vaccination related-organizations to users.

But another social media company, Pinterest, is not taking any chances. Pinterest has stopped returning any search results for vaccinations at all, whether it’s pro- or anti-vaccination. They rationalized that "it’s better not to serve [up] those results than to lead people down what is like a recommendation rabbit hole.” It's worth noting that this type of policy also doesn't require a heavy investment of resources to sort through results.

Meanwhile, in an interview this week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb put the onus on states to enforce vaccination regulations in schools. Gottlieb’s comments stem from a fear that lax enforcement could risk “outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications.” If states don’t tighten up their policies, Gottlieb noted, “they're going to force the hand of the federal health agencies." Lawmakers in New Jersey, New York, Iowa, Maine and Vermont are all looking at tightening exemptions.

Why does this matter?

Most experts and policymakers agree that vaccinations are critical for protecting public health. But many disagree on how to enforce rigorous vaccination policies while respecting an individual’s religious and personal beliefs and right to free speech. The role of social media platforms adds a new wrinkle to the controversy, and brings a health lens to the questions tech companies are already grappling with: what’s the line between preventing the spread of misinformation, and censorship?blank


 Syneos Health Spotlight

We’re delighted to welcome the newest member of the RRM team, Eric Laub, who joins us with a background in investor relations.

Eric’s been following the latest controversy over Elon Musk’s Twitter activity, in which he projected how many cars Tesla would manufacture in 2019, and then later corrected his statement. Musk's Twitter activity has been tied to compliance questions around the settlement agreement he made with the SEC.

Here’s Eric’s take on the ongoing issue: “Even the most well-meaning and seemingly innocuous statements can have repercussions which far exceed their original expectations. In an environment where perception can have as much influence as fact, ‘I meant to say…’ is not a retraction any company officer can afford in the public domain. For life science companies, adherence to the process and policies your company has set relating to material information and disclosure is critical.”

Stay tuned for potential responses from the S.E.C. and the Justice Department. blank


 Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Dana Davis, who is equal parts Beatles and Grande fan and Randi Kahn, who recently taught her niece to sing Yellow Submarine.

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: DNA by Darrin Higgins from the Noun Project, bill by Skye Selbiger from the Noun Project, Map Marker by Molly Bramlet from the Noun Project

About the Author:

Dana Davis is a strategist in the Reputation & Risk Management Practice, where she helps biopharma clients communicate the value they bring to their stakeholders. Her expertise lies in issues of corporate activism; advising companies that must respond to activist tactics from patients, employees, or investors, as well as companies looking to take a proactive stance on social issues.

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.