Merck introduced a video promoting new medicines and cures as great inventions, making it the latest drugmaker to employ the word “cure” in marketing copy that aims to tell a broader story about the role of the industry.
In the video, posted to YouTube on Tuesday, people on the streets of New York City and San Francisco answer one question: What invention can’t you wait for?
Most of the answers tend toward the humorous — robots that make breakfast, a transparent toaster, flying horses, flying cars, and canned sunshine — until a mother with a three-year-old in remission appears at the end of the clip, asks for a cure.
“95% of people don’t think of new medicines as the most impactful inventions,” the video states. “We think they’re the most important kind.”
On Merck’s Inventing For Life web page, the drugmaker said it conducted a survey that found only 5% of respondents cited medicine when asked what inventions have had the greatest impact on society.While 81% were familiar with Steve Jobs, only 17% said they know who Maurice Hilleman was. Hilleman, a Merck scientist, helped invent more than 40 vaccines, including vaccines for the measles, mumps, and chickenpox.
The Inventing For Life page also includes video profiles of current Merck researchers and a timeline of Merck’s R&D history. The drugmaker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pfizer last year launched its Driven to Discover the Cure campaign, which similarly seeks to showcase the hard work that modern-era drug development demands. PhRMA debuted its From Hope to Cures campaign in 2014.
The Pfizer and Merck initiatives seek to tell positive stories about an industry under pressure to address criticism of its pricing practices. “Today, drugmakers do a lot better job of telling their story, of linking what they do to cures, to patients, to outcomes, to being committed in a public way to solving this critical issue,” Keith Yazmir, partner and managing director, EMEA, for Omnicom Group’s Maslansky + Partners, told MM&M in November.
Still, only one class of drugs approved by the FDA in the last five years actually cures patients. That class is made up of several blockbuster hepatitis-C treatments, including Gilead Sciences’ Harvoni and Sovaldi and AbbVie’s Viekira Pak. Merck received approval in January 2016 to market Zepatier, another drug in the new class of hepatitis-C treatments.