Prescription recalls…Don’t worry, it’s just a little bit of glass

April 11, 2007

tylenol.jpgBeing a senior public relations major at Kent State University, time and time again I have been introduced to the Tylenol scandal from 1982.  Of course, crisis management is something that public relations professionals might have to deal with, and the Tylenol scare is probably one of the best practices for ways to handle a crisis. 

In case you haven’t heard about it, let me give you a brief description of what happened.  In 1982, Tylenol was the leading pain reliever brand in the United States.  In Chicago, seven deaths were reported because of cyanide that was put in the Tylenol capsules.  After sending out public announcements warning people about the Tylenol deaths, Johnson & Johnson recalled every bottle of Tylenol in the U.S. and halted advertising. 

We have learned in public relation’s classes about crisis management, and if you ask the PR students at Kent State, this will most likely always come to mind. 

Well, here we go again.  I just read Pharmacuetical Business Online, and a division of Johnson & Johnson has begun a voluntary recall on Grifulvin V.  There have been two reports of glass found in the bottles of liquid that occurred during the shipping of the product.  Johnson & Johnson said the product is now going to be over wrapped to try and prevent breakage while shipping. 

I think all PR majors can learn a lesson when they get into real world.  When managing a crisis, communicate and react quickly.  People scare easily when it comes to health risks.  Make sure you understand the situation and understand that it could potentially get even worse. 

When prescription drugs start to cause fatalities, it becomes an even bigger problem.  The prescription Zelnorm was pulled from shelves a couple weeks ago, but no deaths were reported…yet.  In fact, some people are upset that the drug was recalled because the FDA said that it causes more health risks than benefits.  More than 11 million people have taken the drug.  The company might not be happy that the drug was recalled, but you never know, the FDA might have stopped the drug company from dealing with a crisis in the future. 


No No, just let people sit there and rot while you go about your day

April 3, 2007

hospital-bed1.jpgWorking at a hospital, I sometimes see senior citizens checked-in to the hospital with some very serious bedsores after being in a nursing home.  In fact, bedsore deaths account for higher deaths than those caused by adverse drug reactions. I am not going to bash all nursing homes, but I think there are some ignorant and lazy people out there who aren’t realizing the damage they’re causing by not carefully caring for those who cannot move themselves in bed. There are many nursing home patients who are disabled and need constant care. 

I see this as a HUGE public relations problem.  As a young PR professional, I have learned a company should be trustworthy.  If your potential customers don’t trust in the service you’re providing, it’s downhill from there.  

Nursing homes should consider the amount of publics they’re dealing with.  For one, adults who are looking for a place for their parents will spend a large amount of time researching nursing homes.  Also, not all senior citizens are vegetables and if they see bedsores on others–see ya later.  They aren’t going to stick around. 

And, what happens when there is a lawsuit against the nursing home for bedsores?  Yea, it might have been one employee who failed to care for someone, but it will shed a negative light over the entire organization.

I feel sorry for those senior citizens in nursing homes rotting away while lazy employees go about their day.  Maybe they don’t realize the damage they’re causing while neglecting their work.  This is a serious problem.  I hope nursing homes show training videos that give graphic photos of what bedsores look like.  Maybe that will give employees the kick in the ass they need to care for someone appropriately. 

I can’t fathom what these employees are thinking.  Just go ahead, skip your room numbers and let your responsibilities rot away in their rooms.  They don’t need any attention.  Bedsores that appear and are so deep in the skin that you can actually see inside a person’s body aren’t that big of deal I guess…

Who needs doctors when you can diagnose yourself?

March 22, 2007

CBS News reported that drug firms have dramatically increased their spending on television advertising to consumers.  Direct-to-consumer advertising has had a huge impact over consumers in the last few years. pills.jpg

 From a PR perspective:

1. Companies should focus more on educating their consumers. There seem to be a lot of commercials that say “2 out of 3 doctors” recommend a prescription drug.  Hmmmm, I wonder how many doctors were asked and who they were?  With more truthful information people will be able to make an educated decision on whether or not they should even ask their doctor if they need a drug. 

2. Create a Web site and promote that.  Sure, some drug companies can tell the mass media to ask their doctors, but why not let them find out more?  Let consumers know that they can visit a Web site to find out more information about a drug that could give them better health.

3.  Provide literature.  Yep, believe it or not, some people are still not tech savvy and do not go to the Internet for information.  So provide a toll-free number and let consumers ask for brochures or more literature.

4.  Give them alternatives.  I’m not a doctor, but I know there are simple ways to help cure common sicknesses like a cold.  Let people know that vitamin C could help them relieve their cold symptoms.  Drug companies should let them know that taking a prescription medicine is not the only way to cure some sicknesses. doctor.jpg

From a different perspective, I understand that some people could argue that direct-to-consumer advertising prescription medicines could be informational for those who would like to be more involved in their health care.  I understand that some people might not be aware they need a drug in the first place until they see a commercial.

However, I do believe that this could be a nuisance to doctors.   It could become a huge waste of time in a doctors office explaining why a patient is not being prescribed Nexium even though they had seen the commercial and swear it’s right for them. 

I think that drug companies should be very careful when advertising to consumers.  I believe some people might start to believe they could have graduated from medical school and can prescribe themselves.  Consumers should seek as much information as they can before diagnosing themselves, including asking your doctor. 

Go ahead, give your doc a test-drive

March 14, 2007

Some hospitals and medical centers have begun to broadcast surgeries on the Internet via webcasts.  I have a feeling there are some we don’t care to see.  The very first webcast surgery was Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Texas.  The live brain surgery had an audience of about 2,000 people.  Since then, 9,000 people have race carwatched the cast. 

The doctors who webcast their surgeries provide step-by-step explanations.  Live viewers are able to ask questions while the surgery is taking place.  I’m not to sure I would want to be the patient under the knife while America watched, but I guess some people are willing to just put themselves out there. 

These doctors who agree to the surgeries are pretty brave.  The audiences for this surgery have a wide range.  Not only will you have possible patients in the future watching your every move, but you could have other doctors critiquing your work.  That doesn’t sound like much fun. 

Urological surgeon Andrew Portis, M.D., webcasted a surgery using X-ray radiation.  During the webcast, an observer asked him if he could do the surgery without all the of X-raying.  According to Dr. Portis, you can.  After the webcast, Portis and his medical team have since cut down X-ray radiation during surgeries. 

As a public relations student and soon professional (hopefully), I have been taught that it’s important for organizations to be transparent.  I believe this is extremely important in the medical field.  Doctors are being sued for malpractice all the time, and hospitals can take a lot of heat from the media.  A webcast surgery might cause some serious damage.  What happens when a viewer thinks he sees something the doctor is doing wrong and goes and tells the rest of the community how bad the doctor at the local hospital is?  His friends will take his word for it over the hospital’s. 

On the other hand, I believe webcasting surgeries can do a lot of good.  Those tech-savvy patients who are watching a surgery they will possibly need, can experience the procedure before it’s done.  These potential customers can watch their doctors and possibly feel better about having surgery.  And talk about media coverage!  There is an unbelievable audience for these surgeries.

Now, instead of watching Grey’s Anatomy and ER to look at all the blood and guts, you can just sit at your computer at home and possibly watch your friend under the knife!

Out of Control Child Obesity

March 8, 2007

Let’s face it, kids in America are fat.  Hell, America is fat.  Who is to blame?  We could blame fast food companies who have targeted children as consumers.  It could be obese parents who contribute to their child’s weight problem.  It might be schools that have cut out their physical education programs because of budget–who knows?

 Where are the ethics in obesity?  McDonald’s has been sued by some people who claim eating the food has made them fat.  Those same “fat” people have said the fast food chain implies that the food is part of a healthy diet.  I believe this is one of those instances that people only hear what they want to hear.  Are these people saying that they do not have the ability to protect themselves?  McDonald’s has implemented healthy foods into its menu. 

 On the other side of the spectrum, some people fail to realize the good that McDonald’s has done.  The Ronald McDonald House Charities , located in about 50 counties, has used more than $440 million to provide a “home way from home” specializing in pediatrics to help families with serious ill children.  Children who are receiving care at nearby hospitals have the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House and “escape the tension of a hospital atmosphere.” 

So is McDonald’s a fast food chain that has contributed to the epidemic of child obesity in the U.S.?  Look at all of the stories on the Ronald McDonald House Charities Web site from families who have nothing but good stories about how the charity has helped.  Some could argue that it’s ironic that the food at McDonald’s could potentially put children in such a harm’s way that they will sooner or later need the charity. 

 It’s important for companies to shed negative press with positive.  There are the groups out there such as anti McDonald’s who claim the fast food restaurant is such a horrible place.  Then, there are the public relations professionals writing press releases and increasing publicity to shed light on the fact that McDonald’s has done positive things with its profits. 

A World with No Words…

February 23, 2007

From what I understand, autism is a poorly understood disease.  Thank you to Heather Bing, author of Experience PR, who brought to my attention atitlephoto.jpg disorder that affects over 600,000 adults in the U.S. 

After reading an article on CNN,  I have been inspired by Amanda Baggs, a 26-year-old woman living with autism.  Amanda does not speak, but she communicates with others through videos on youtube.  Dr. Sanjay Gutpa, medical correspondent and author of Paging Dr. Gutpa , said Amanda is intelligent.  Adults with autism are neglected and sometimes thought of as mentally retarded, but that is far from true.  

After Dr. Gutpa’s Blog entry, approximately 200 comments from the public appeared.   People had questions for Amanda, and some wanted Dr. Gutpa’s advice for their children about autism.  CNN also provided a Q & A for Amanda and others to interact via Web.   

The Internet seems as though it has evolved into a tool that we cannot live without. We e-mail, network, shop and communicate all the time on the Internet.  It seems there are no limitations to using the Internet–or are there? 

I read an article in one of my public relations classes from Webaim.  It stated that the importance of targeting Web sites to the disabled is highly unrealized.   There are a lot of them out there.  It startles me to think that some of us out there are not using something I feel I cannot live without. 

Slowly, Amanda has learned how to type and rely on a voice synthesizer.  She is fully aware of the world around her, and through the Internet, Amanda is able to communicate with others.   She has interacted with doctors who say they have learned a lot from Amanda. 

I think there is a lesson to be learned from Amanda’s story.  While organizations and companies out there are thinking about innovative ways to target their existing audiences, they should be thinking about people like Amanda and others who suffer from disabilities.  I don’t see many Web sites targeted to the blind, or even the deaf for that matter.  Why should they be left out?  If Amanda can teach an M.D. a thing or two, so can the rest of disabled people. 

Autism and Web sites for the disabled are highly unrecognized.  Maybe those with autism not communicating will soon be able to like Amanda and teach the world a thing or two about this disease.  In the future, maybe autism won’t be so much as a mystery.  Why?  Because of the Internet, because it is still evolving, because it can help those who cannot communicate through words interact with the rest of the world.   


The laggards are catching on

February 14, 2007

Well, I guess the elderly are starting to jump on the Internet bandwagon.  Should companies in healthcare be thinking about this audience?  Yep. old_peoples1.jpg

I was surfing the Web, and I found an article from the magazine, Nursing Homes.  A study showed that older adults are the fastest growing Internet users.  I bet not many companies target Web sites to the elderly, except the staff at It’s Never 2 Late.  This organization actually trains senior citizens to use the Web.  It offers a Web site where senior citizens can navigate EASILY.  The labels and content are clear and easy to understand.  This audience can go to Internet pharmacies and even get their medicine. 

 It seems like companies have overlooked the older audience.  It’s ironic, because they are the ones who are in need of the prescription drugs and health information (for the most part).  Companies should maybe start thinking about catering their Web sites to the elder.  Their best customers should be able to order their prescription drugs at home.  Paying their medical bills should be made easy understand.  Paying their hospital and doctor bills could be done in an instant. 

 Kudos to those in Colorado helping senior citizens through the It’s Never 2 Late program.  I hope others catch on and help train senior citizens to use the Web.  And when it happens, I hope companies catch on and learn how to target their Web sites toward the older audience.  After all, they are your best customers!