Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Elephant Man: There's a story breaking in the U.K. right now that has interesting implications for the pharmaceutical testing business and for the biotech sector in particular. British papers are a-twitter--none more so than the Daily Mail, cited above, which specializes in medical scare stories--over a new drug test gone horribly wrong.

Several volunteer patients are in hospital, one of them described by his girlfriend as looking like "the Elephant Man," a description that understandably made its way into headlines around the country. The story is the front page banner on almost all of the tabloids. Doctors say "he'll need a miracle" to recover.

The company responsible, a small German concern called TeGenero (15 people), made all the right noises about sympathy, but when asked a straightforward question about earlier animal tests, chief scientific officer Thomas Hanke refused to answer, telling reporters: "This is not relevant." I need hardly point out that it's not his place to decide what's relevant and what isn't, and that kind of response is only going to create more problems. Reporters will dig into the story and learn the truth. If animals did die, he's going to be accused of stonewalling.

Meanwhile, the Mail is asking the question: "Is this the end for pharmaceutical testing?" Okay, so it's a stupid question, because the alternative to medical testing is the end of medical progress--and all those "miracle cure" stories the Mail also loves to splash over its front page. But it's clear that this incident has the potential to create all kinds of problems for a sector that already has its share.

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