US drugs trade body in PR review

WASHINGTON: The US drug industry’s trade association, a profoundly influential force in Washington, has begun a review of all its PR and lobbying agencies.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which works with numerous PR and lobbying shops across the country, has issued a tender to a number of agencies.

The contract involves state and grassroots work, according to senior vice-president of communications Ken Johnson.APCO Worldwide, Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard and Hill & Knowlton are in the frame for the business, although other agencies might be invited to pitch too.

Both APCO and Edelman have previously worked on PhRMA accounts.

PhRMA is under new leadership after former Republican congressman Billy Tauzin became president and CEO on 3 January. He recruited his long-standing aide Johnson to head PR. Johnson served previously as chief spokesman and communications director for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Rick Smith, who temporarily had PR incorporated into his senior vice-

president position, will now oversee policy for PhRMA.

Tauzin joins the trade group as the drugs industry faces fierce criticism over the high cost of drugs and their safety. Tauzin has made the image of the industry a top priority, according to Jack Angel, former director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication.

Angel said: “There’s a sense of urgency that we need to better connect with the public at large.”

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