PhRMA helping Thompson spread health messages

WASHINGTON: The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of

America (PhRMA) has been enlisted in the war against bioterrorism,

creating a special task force that will work with the government and

communicate to the public what the industry is doing to protect the the

health of Americans.

The Task Force on Emergency Preparedness includes such heavy hitters as

Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmith-Kline,

and Pharmacia.

Executives from these companies have already met twice with Secretary of

Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, and have held one meeting with

Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. PhRMA held a

press conference after the first meeting with Thompson to outline the

formal assistance it was giving to the Bush administration.

The team disclosed that it was preparing initiatives to protect the

nation from the threats of anthrax and smallpox. It offered free

medicines to anyone exposed to anthrax, said it would develop a smallpox

vaccine, and offered the use of industry scientists and research

laboratories to fight bioterrorism.

The task force is broken into two separate groups: pharmacy CEOs, who

will meet with members of Congress and will also be available to speak

with the press, and a group of research scientists who will be working

with researchers from the CDC and the NIH. They will be available to

speak with reporters to explain technical issues.

The communications team at PhRMA has been inundated with calls from the

media, which needs help understanding how anthrax works.

Dr. Michael Friedman, former head of the FDA, will lead the industry

initiative as chief medical officer for biomedical preparedness. He will

also act as the group's spokesperson, appearing at press conferences and

on TV news programs.

"He bridges all areas," said Jackie Cottrell, deputy VP of public

affairs for PhRMA. "Dr. Friedman has experience speaking with consumers,

and he also knows how to explain what we're doing as an industry to make

contributions to the war on terror."

The industry has also been proactive about putting out releases to make

the public aware of its efforts to assist the government. Thirteen

companies have put out releases on various initiatives that they will

implement to help fight terrorism.

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