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P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase

Coming to a dart board near you; Mylan CEO Heather Bresch.

P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase. Admiration for public relations practitioners who are advocates for their enterprises  when they are mis-represented in the press is where the profession earns its merit and distinction. Scorn is what gets heaped on us when we are spinning bad behavior. Pity is what I feel for people whose livelihoods depend on working in such places where trying to explain away something terrible is the order of the day. Say hello to Mylan Pharmaceuticals and CEO Heather Bresch who blamed ‘the system’ for the massive price hikes on a pharmaceutical that has not been changed or improved lately. Rather than reconsider the price increase and her own salary boost CEO Bresch pointed a well manicured finger of blame at ‘the system’ for this failure, claiming further that ‘no one is more frustrated than I am’ at whoever this ‘system’ is.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch ; a public relations disaster for her company. P.R. 'Offensive' Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase
Milan CEO Heather Bresch; a public relations disaster for her company. P.R. ‘Offensive’ Heather Bresch Doubles Down On EpiPen Price Increase

Price Spike

Milan CEO Bresch is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Minchin, D-W.Va. Her company’s EpiPen’s are used to save the lives of people who experience severe allergic reactions that cause their airways to close. Mylan acquired the decades-old product in 2007, when pharmacies paid less than $100 for a two-pen set, and has since been steadily raising the wholesale price. In 2009, a pharmacy paid $103.50 for a set. By July 2013 the price was up to $264.50, and it rose 75 percent to $461 by last May. In May 2016 the price spiked again to $608.61, according to data provided by Elsevier Clinical Solutions’ Gold Standard Drug Database.

Bresch Interviewed; Blames Customers

During an interview on CNBC, CEO Bresch argued that a ‘lack of transparency in the complex health care system — with bigger cuts for everyone along the supply chain — “incentivizes higher prices” in the industry. She pointed out that copays and deductibles are on the rise, too. “This system needs to be fixed. No one knows what anything costs,” Bresch told CNBC on Thursday.The Mylan CEO compared the health care industry to the real estate mortgage crisis of 2008. “Our health care system is in a crisis…This bubble is going to burst,” Bresch said. Bresch did not cite increased costs of raw materials, new taxes, regulations, or demand for the increase in price. Nor did she explain why the same medicine is available in Canada for hundreds of dollars less.

When Corporate Governance Is Broken

Who To Blame For That Salary Increase? Bresch had no explanation for the over 600% in pay raises she has received as CEO, with her earnings going from approximately$ 2.5 million a year to over $18 million a year. No vague ‘system’ to pin that on.  Shareholders should look to the Mylan board of directors for an explanation since they are the ones who approve these increases.

What Is A P.R. Person To Do?

Everyone has bills to pay, I get that. Hell, somewhere someone is explaining how the Clinton Foundation is a good thing. But behavior like this from the Mylan CEO will get people killed. Someone is going to die because they could not afford an EpiPen.  And it may be lots of people who die needlessly because Heather Bresch needs the money (sarcasm). So Mylan public relations people, polish your resumes and get out there. No need to go down with this ship. Leave your CEO to ride this one to the bottom all by herself. She deserves it and you deserve better.

NOTE: the writer is an asthmatic who takes epinephrin in pill form daily.

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Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

Mylan Pharmaceuticals raised the price of the EpiPen beyond the ability of most to afford it.

Move over Martin Shrkeli. Corporate greed and hubris has a new face. While her appearance is only slightly nicer than Shrkeli’s her ability to generate public relations troubles for her company are on an even par. And what of the public relations people who have to provide cover for this wide awake nightmare? Keep reading. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare.

Heather Bresch 

Mylan is the pharmaceutical company that cornered the market on the life-saving EpiPen and then dramatically increased its price. Not coincidentally Mylan also jacked up the pay of top executives.

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is under fire for increasing the price of the EpiPen and taking a raise of over 670%.
Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is under fire for increasing the price of the EpiPen and taking a raise of over 670%.

Between 2007, when Mylan acquired the patent for the EpiPen, to 2015, the wholesale price went from $56.64 to $317.82 — a price increase of 461 percent. Similarly, compensation for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch increased astronomically over the same time period. According to NBC News, Bresch went from making $2.453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2015, amounting to a 671 percent raise over eight years. Good work if you can find it. While Bresch was not the only executive at Mylan to receive added compensation, hers was the highest and most egregious.

Fortunate Son Daughter

With apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bresch is the daughter of senator Joe Manchin, a Democratic U.S. senator from West Virginia and the state’s former governor. Heather Bresch’s career has risen along with her father’s, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by her critics. Her father got her a job around 1992 when her stint as an aerobics teacher in California did not go as planned. The future senator was elected Secretary of State in 2000 and in 2002 Heather was named the company’s lobbyist. There are plenty of other examples of how Heather’s responsibilities increased as her father won elections. Read them all here: How a senator’s daughter became CEO of the company at the center of the EpiPen controversy.

Bresch had other P.R. gaffes when her MBA from West Virginia was rescinded. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Bresch did not actually have enough credits for an MBA from West Virginia University, even though the news release announcing her new, high-profile job said she had earned one. The school, through its own investigation, found Bresch had been given grades “pulled from thin air” because of her “high profile.”

Her father was finishing up his third year as governor at the time, and Bresch’s critics were vocal about whether her connections led to this drama. The school took the degree back. But that’s not the end. She reincorporated her U.S.-based drug company in the Netherlands, which cut its tax liability. Ouch. Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

Flack For Mylan

To their credit the company has a statement on their web site and puts the blame for the increase on ‘the current changes in the healthcare insurance landscape.’ To read the entire statement click here; But the media is not buying it. Mylan and Bresch are buried in bad publicity.

The company’s twitter account makes no mention of the EpiPen but the rest of the twitter-verse is awash in negatives. These come from all parts of the media; left, right and all other ways media leans today. It amounts to universal condemnation. So what can public relations people learn from this?

Easy. Some leaders are terrible. Terrible at understanding the optics of juxtaposing their big raises along side of price increases for medicine that is life saving for millions. Terrible because they failed to learn anything from Martin Shrkeli. Terrible because they spent their lives above the rules based on their ‘high profiles’. Terrible because they have no shame. Could Bresch and Mylan recover? Sure. Reduce the price immediately, say you are sorry for the whole thing and promise to learn from these mistakes. Hands of those who think this is likely? No one? Okay.

What will hopefully happen is that the negative press and government investigations that will follow force the board to fire the well connected but hard to love Bresch from her job as CEO. Bresch will then claim she was victimized because of her gender. But no one will believe that either.

Mylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR NightmareMylan CEO Bresch Creates PR Nightmare

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Measles Vaccine Controversy: Public Relations Nightmare

What do vaccines, public advocacy by the pharmaceutical industry and the “tin foil hat” crowd have in common? We’ll get to all of this. Measles Vaccine Controversy: Public Relations Nightmare.

First, skipping your measles vaccination is not a good idea as measles are contagious and can lead to complications up to and including death. Getting a measles vaccination is easy, affordable and just about guarantees you will not catch the measles. So what’s the big deal? And where are the pharmaceutical companies and why are they not advocating for the vaccine?

Drug companies should be more aggressive in their advocacy for vaccines and drown out the "tin foil hat" crowd.
Drug companies should be more aggressive in their advocacy for vaccines and drown out the “tin foil hat” crowd.

Plenty of others have written about the bad data from a
vaccine study in the U.K. but I have another theory about why so many are not considering this or the vaccines. Trust, or a lack of trust.

Not trusting government is as American as the 4th of July. But it seems that lack of faith now extends to business. The “drug companies” seem to get the most attention in this space. Perfectly reasonable people believe that drug/pharmaceutical companies are actually in the business of perpetuating illness as a way to prolong diseases and increase their revenues. Views like this that were once only the views voiced from the “tin foil hat” and talk radio crowd are now more main stream in the era of Face Book and Twitter. If Mee-Maw saw it on the “Interwebs” then it must be true, right? Wrong.

This kind of nonsense will make you dead. It will also make other innocent people dead, sick or permanently disabled. The pharmaceutical industry has an opportunity to advocate for good health, vaccines and their considerable abilities. So where are they?

Big companies are big targets, and attract a lot of attention when they step up or step out. A lot of that attention is going to be negative and no one likes the bad kind of attention. You can understand why they would choose to remain silent and let the controversy spin itself out, as it likely will. Add to that lawyers who “contribute” to the public relations strategy by telling their internal clients to “not say anything” as part of their response to public discourse. Remaining silent is a good idea at the police station, but it is terrible public relations strategy.

Without advocacy from the pharmaceutical industry, bad information, bad policy and more sick people will be the result. It does not have to be that way, which is a real shame. I hope that people who are in a position to do so decide to come out on the side of science, advocate for measles and other vaccines and drown out the voices of ignorance that seem to receive a disproportionate amount of attention. I’m looking at you, Mee-Maw.