Companies should certainly prepare for the possibility of a product recall–but  “no matter how prepared you are,  you will never be prepared enough.”  So said Lisa Adler, VP Corporate Communications at Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company,  in moderating a panel  on “Communications During Product Recall.”    The panel, held on September 19,  was sponsored by the company and MassBio.

In her experience, Adler said, “things never go smoothly.  You need to anticipate that. ”

Panelists recommended that companies have a “war room” in which stakeholders–including  decisionmakers from legal, regulatory,  and other key departments– gather to approve everything that goes out.

Manisha Pai, Millennium’s PR director pointed out the importance of being prepared to use–and respond to– social media. “While you can’t get your entire message out in a 140-word Twitter message,”  she said, you can link it to more complete information on your home page.

[Boston Globe Reporter Rob Weisman and ‘s Adam Feurstein both said that while they might follow a few companies on Twitter they consider such communiques “tips” or alerts” to follow up on, rather than news items in themselves.]

When Weisman asked fellow panelists whether companies’ communications efforts in recalls  are  meant to protect the company or the public,  Pai, of  Millennium responded, “It’s both. ”

As a consumer-focused company, she explained, “our reputation rests on our responsibility to consumers and on our role as a public citizen. We need to protect the public–and also the company. ”
Adler added that,  for Millennium, protecting the public comes first.

Feuerstein and  Arlene Weintraub,  Xconomy’s New York City bureau chief, both emphasized the importance of transparency–and telling the whole story as soon as possible.

Feuerstein said:  “Coverup is the biggest crime.”  It’s better to risk getting some negative press in the beginning if need be–because if you wait a few months to come forward,  the analysts “will nail you….You often can’t recover from that.”

Anita M. Harris, President
Harris Communications Group

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning  public relations and marketing firm located inCambridge, MA.  We also publish New Cambridge Observer. 


A new global review from my client, Scientia Advisors , predicts rapid growth in molecular diagnostics and that,  with traditional pharma companies slow to innovate, a myriad of new entrants vying for market share will change the healthcare landscape.

(Molecular diagnostics are genetic tests used to judge the effectiveness of  particular treatments for individual patients–key to the burgeoning new field of personalized medicine).

Released earlier this month  (and available for download at no charge at www  the review projects that MDx will grow at  an annually compounded rate 15% to approximately $7.5B in 2013.

Currently, molecular tests used for oncology and critical care infectious diseases are experiencing the fastest growth among MDx segments.

“Ultimately, MDx will enhance care, cut health care costs and make personalized medicine a worldwide reality,” said Scientia Advisors Managing Partner Harry Glorikian.

Among other major findings:

  • The industry is transitioning away from low-cost, low-margin tests. New, “high-value” MDx tests are changing the health care paradigm by providing critical information to physicians more quickly and accurately than was previously possible.
  • While most MDx revenue is currently generated in the US and Europe, future growth will be most pronounced in the developing world.
  •  New, easy-to-use, random access and fast-turnaround-time MDx platforms are enabling widespread adoption of MDx in small and mid-sized hospitals, worldwide.
  • Companies seeking to enter the MDx field must be cognizant that, with the growing impact of MDx, government oversight and regulation will likely increase and reimbursement policies will evolve to reflect added value.

Scientia Advisors is a global management consulting firm specializing in growth strategies for companies in health care, life sciences, biotechnology and nutrition, world wide. The firm is based in Boston and San Francisco.

—Anita M. Harris

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

HarrisCom client Scientia Advisors  recommends that the device industry set its sights on the growing neurostimulation market to meet treatment needs of individuals suffering from nerve-related disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and continence.

The advice, based on a Scientia study released today,  comes as electrical stimulation technologies  begin to supplant drugs for treating certain nerve-related disorders.  

According to Scientia managing partner Harry Glorikian: “With an aging population and increasing concern about efficacy and health care costs, there is a growing need for treatments that are quicker, safer,  more effective and less expensive than drug-based therapies,” Glorikian said.

“Neurostimulation can be advantageous to patients because it is not addictive, does not depend on individuals’ genetic makeup, and does not ordinarily cause systemic side effects,” Glorikian said. “By diminishing the need for ongoing medication and treatment, neurostimulation devices could also help reduce overall health care costs. “

In its study, Scientia found that the neurostimulation market has been growing at an average rate of 16 per cent since 2007. Scientia projects growth rates of 14- to-23 percent for certain technologies through 2012.

“Emerging companies are developing exciting new methods for treating a variety of nerve-related disorders.  With added proof of safety and clinical efficacy, we expect that doctors will increasingly recommend surgically implanted devices instead of—or along with– pharmaceuticals for many patients,” Glorikian said.

Scientia projects the most rapid growth for:

  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), which delivers electrical impulses  to targeted areas of the brain via implanted leads and power sources. DBS is now used in treating six percent of the approximately  6 million US patients who have movement disorders such as Parkinson ’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia.  DBS is in the pipeline for use in epilepsy, migraine, major depression, paralysis from stroke, and muscular and cognitive disorders.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), which is used mainly for treating chronic pain. When added to conventional (pharmaceutical) therapy, Scientia reports, SCS decreases pain by 50 percent,  whereas conventional therapy alone decreases pain by just nine percent.
  • Sacral Nerve Stimulation (SNS), which is currently used mainly as a last resort in treating serious bladder or fecal incontinence.  In the US, 13 million individuals—including 10 percent of US individuals over age 65– suffer from serious incontinence.  Since 1997, some 50 thousand patients have been treated with implanted SNS devices, worldwide.

 “Currently, the neurostimulation  market is dominated by a few large companies but countless others could prosper by developing or acquiring these exciting new  technologies,” Glorikian said.

Key opportunities and unmet needs include smaller devices that are easier to use,  longer battery life and better feedback mechanisms, the study found.

Scientia Advisors, based in Cambridge, MA and Palo Alto, CA,  specializes in growth strategies for major and emerging companies. Scientia advises companies based on proprietary studies, many of which are self-funded.



 On Wednesday, July 15, 2009, media consultant Doug Bailey wrote in an  op ed column entitled  “Got a comment? Keep it to yourself” that space for comments at the end of online newspaper articles should be eliminated because they downgrade the quality of news. 

Bailey,  who does not disclose that he’s a  former Globe editor, suggests that rather than enhance communication, newspapers online forums are “insidiously contributing to the devaluation of journalism, blurring the truth, confusing the issues, and diminishing serious discourse beyond even talk radio’s worst examples.”

He  points out (without naming names) that  the comment sections allow  “anonymous”, “unverified,”  “agenda-driven”  “boneheads” to post inaccurate information that  can be picked up by bloggers and then by legitimate traditional reporters who publish “missives” –unaware that the bloggers’ information came from their newspapers’ own Web sites.

Yes, this is a problem–and  it is, as Bailey puts it, a bit  “insane”. But rather than ban readers’ comments, wouldn’t it make more sense for reporters to verify all sources?  Certainly, real reporting takes time–and traditional journalists are increasingly harried in these days of cost-cutting and layoffs.

But it is verfication and objectivity that separate  independent journalism from  disinformation. And, it is truth, and allowing readers a stake in it–that, in the end, will give us a reason to  pay for news.

Bailey ends his column saying, “By the way, don’t bother posting any comments directly to me when this article appears on the Web. I won’t see them. Instead, go start your own website or blog or buy a legitimate newspaper or write a letter to the editor, or an op -ed (and sign your own name to it). If  you really have something interesting to say, I’ll find you.”

(I was  amused–and glad–to see 168 comments after the online posting.

  • “Kachunk” says he’s posting for “the irony”
  • “Oldpink “says it’s ” nice for ordinary citizens to be given an opportunity to add something that should have been in the original column, while allowing others to rebut.Messy? Often a bit mean? Commonly inaccurate? Absolutely. Isn’t democracy grand?”
  •  “Sensibleman,”  writes that he’s using  the first amendment to tell Bailey “to stop submitting articles so if intelligent life ever scans our internet to determine how critical it is to stop at Earth they don’t pass over us due to stupidity.”)

I read Bailey’s column in the print edition–which is delivered  to my door (late, but that’s another story)  every day.   But the Globe allows almost no print space for letters to the editor which, in days past, might have helped keep reporters and columnists on their toes.  Hence, this posting–and comment #169 after Bailey’s piece, online.

But if  I did write in, I’d  include my name and  prior affiliations– and make  clear that like Bailey’s,  my not-so hidden agenda is to attract customers to  my consulting business.  

 Hint, hint:  Anita Harris, a former national journalist,  is president of the Harris Communications Group, of Cambridge, MA.

PS  Comments welcome!

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