Editorial—Educating The Masses About Biopharma

Nov 01, 2004
Volume 17, Issue 11

Carol L. Fisher
Idon't know about you, but I found Senator John Kerry's assertion that President Bush was to blame for the US flu vaccine shortage quite laughable, but only until it became clear Kerry intended to continue railing about it throughout his final campaign thrust. As political tactics would have it, of course there was no mention of the Comprehensive Child Immunization Act of 1993, back-door price controls, and the resultant US dependence on external vaccine suppliers.

Although it was a ridiculous accusation, I'll bet there were many voters who believed him. The sad truth is that most Americans don't understand what our industry is all about, something Mr. Kerry undoubtedly was relying on. They know what they spend on their prescription medications, but they know little else, operating under the false assumption that prescription drug costs are primarily responsible for increased healthcare spending. I think most consumers would be amazed to learn that overall, they spend four times more on entertainment and dining out than they do on out-of-pocket costs for medicine, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

During a May 2004 speech to 200 biotech and pharmaceutical executives in Washington, DC, Peter B. Corr, Ph.D., senior vice president of science and technology for Pfizer, addressed drug access and affordability. "It is absolutely essential," he said, "that we collaborate, that we partner, to help the public understand that we are not the problem — but we are an important part of the solution." He explained that educating the public is crucial because without investment capital and satisfied shareholders, there will be little progress.

Other benefits will accrue from an investment in the public's awareness of our industry. For example, exposing younger generations to the excitement and rewards that are possible in the field of biopharma will eventually yield a larger crop of graduates who are better qualified for positions that industry managers continually struggle to fill. There's added value in this strategy because a growing number of US-educated foreign students are electing to return home after graduation to support their own countries' biogrowth.

Companies like Wyeth are on the right track. I recently shared a break at bioLOGIC USA with a Wyeth professional who said his team regularly pays educational visits to schools and even to groups like the Brownies and Cub Scouts. Elsewhere, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center offers a K-12 Education Enrichment Program and grants for instructor-initiated projects to develop a trained workforce and an educated public. BioPharm's newest Guide to GMP offers updated information for biopharma professionals, as well as foundational material to supplement tutorial programs for employees new to the industry and for more mature students. Call us if you need additional copies.

Carol L. Fisher, Editor in Chief
BioPharm International

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