Pharmaceutical Industry Uses Bus to Tell Public about Programs, Bolster Image

Article excerpt

The United States' major pharmaceutical companies gave away $5 billion worth of medication to those in need last year, but the industry still struggles to overcome negative public perception, an industry representative said Tuesday.

I work for an industry that's kind of misunderstood, said Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, an organization that includes the 34 biggest pharmaceutical companies in the nation.

Johnson has been touring the country promoting the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which connects the uninsured and underinsured with assistance programs that help them get prescription medications for free or at reduced cost. Since April 2005, the partnership has helped nearly 2 million patients nationally, including about 7,000 Oklahomans, gain access to medications they couldn't otherwise afford.

Pharmaceutical companies have been offering such programs for more than 50 years, but in the past they haven't been well-advertised and enrollment can be a confusing process, Johnson said.

In a lot of people's minds we're viewed as the evil empire, and you hear from people all the time who talk about how the pharmaceutical industry puts profits ahead of patients, Johnson said. Nothing could be further from the truth- We give away more in free medicines every year than we spend on advertising. …