Communicating the Science

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Having just attended the judging for MM&M Awards 2007, I was on a high. For starters, it's one of the ultimate thrills for a trade editor to be greeted by almost 50 executives representing the cream of the industry the magazine covers, all of whom have committed an entire day to reviewing and scoring the 700-plus entries. Plus, it's always special to see so much of the industry's best work on display in one place at one time; some of it familiar, some surprising, the majority of it spectacular.

But perhaps the biggest privilege of all is to have the opportunity to mingle with the judges—not because I become star-struck in the presence of so many industry celebrities (OK, maybe one or two) but rather because it becomes clear almost immediately that the majority not only talk the talk (which is how we know them in the first place) but they walk it, too (which is why we want them to be judges). It's obvious they care about what they do.

Take Mike Pucci, GlaxoSmithKline's VP for external advocacy. Pucci has spent much of the last couple of years preaching the Value of Medicine to pretty much every stakeholder he can get in front of. As a result, almost everybody in the industry knows him through his dedication to that message. And while it may take a long time for that to percolate outside of industry circles, Pucci has built a solid foundation on which the reputation of his company, and that of the entire industry, can grow.

“We have to find a way to communicate the science,” declared Pucci in conversation at the start of the judging session. Those of us within earshot agreed.

Ironically, later that day, with Pucci's “science” mantra still in my head, I opened the latest issue of Scientific American to an article by Jonathan Kahn called “Race in a Bottle” which questions the science behind the approval of NitroMed's BiDil in 2005 for congestive heart failure in African-Americans. Kahn is not the first to comment on the ethics of pharmacogenomics; and in fact, one of his arguments, that BiDil is not a new medicine but a combination of two generic drugs, is a little bit “so what?”

But he does make scientific arguments against the validity of BiDil as a pharmacogenomic drug and whether it works differently in African-Americans: “The approval …was based primarily on a clinical trial that enrolled only self-identified African-Americans and did not compare their health outcomes with those of other ethnic or racial groups.” Kahn goes on to describe the development of BiDil as “a tangled tale of inconclusive studies, regulatory hurdles and commercial motives.”
This article, appearing in “the oldest continuously published magazine in the US,” succeeds in communicating drug science to a largely consumer audience arguably as well as any literature coming out  and, if nothing else, is a convincing reminder that two can play at conveying clinical facts.

Back to the awards. I'm pleased to report that the judges worked tirelessly and diligently to ensure that the best work wins.  However, like everybody else, they don't yet know the identity of those winners. A list of finalists will be published this month in our electronic newsletter, MM&M News Brief, but the indivudual winners won't be revealed until the spectacular awards dinner and presentation at New York's Tavern on the Green, Nov. 1. Aside from being the biggest and best party in the industry, it's a great opportunity to talk the talk and walk the walk. I hope to see you there.

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