Glaxo push explains high US drug prices

PHILADELPHIA: GlaxoSmithKline is using PR to support its first corporate advertising campaign since the company was formed via a 2000 merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. The campaign features issues ads explaining the high price of drugs in the US.

PHILADELPHIA: GlaxoSmithKline is using PR to support its first corporate advertising campaign since the company was formed via a 2000 merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. The campaign features issues ads explaining the high price of drugs in the US.

Nancy Pekarek, VP of corporate media relations US, said Glaxo reached out to local newspapers in Philadelphia, and Raleigh and Durham, NC, where it has facilities, to bring the campaign to its employees' attention. Some of the ads emphasize the research work of Glaxo's employees.

"We're proud of what our employees do, and we're taking their story to the public," Pekarek said. Articles about the campaign appeared last week in The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The (Raleigh) News & Observer, and The Miami Herald.

The ads started appearing Monday, March 15, in papers in Philadelphia, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. There are also TV spots.

The two main themes of the ads are that the company invests in discovering better medicine (one ad concludes, "Today's medicines finance tomorrow's miracles") and that it is investing in providing access to that medicine. Another ad features Glaxo's discount-drug program for certain senior citizens.

Glaxo will launch a significant print campaign in April in USA Today and in national magazines like Good Housekeeping. Pekarek said the company expects about 85% of people 50 and over to see the TV spots five times in a four-week period.

She declined to disclose how much Glaxo is spending on the advertisements, which were created by Publicis Dallas.

The pharmaceutical industry has come under increasing attack for the high cost of drugs. Several states are suing the major drug companies for allegedly inflating prices and are also considering legislation to allow the reimporting of brand-name drugs to the US from Canada. The cost of prescriptions is also expected to be an issue in this year's presidential election.

In its article on the ad campaign, The Wall Street Journal quoted Frank Clemente of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen as saying, "Next to the tobacco industry, the drug industry has the biggest PR problem."

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