Some negative stories seem to never die. When you’re in the medical industry, and you end up with negative press, that can be tough to shake. That being said, it can be a real jaw-dropper when a medical company creates the negative PR firestorm themselves. Last year, two health industry companies that no one had ever heard of suddenly became household names, for all the wrong reasons.
After pharmaceutical company Mylan quadrupled the price of the EpiPen, millions of parents exploded with very public rage. You would have thought Mylan would have seen this coming. After all, less than a year earlier, “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli began his long, strange trip through the crisis PR maelstrom by jacking up the price of an AIDS drug. The public reaction was anything but subtle, so you would think most drug companies would have played a bit safer.
But not Mylan, the company took something that countless parents depend on to keep their children breathing and sent the price through the roof. This was followed by doubling the price of several other drugs, as well as relatively more modest, but still substantial, price hikes. The consumer public Was Not Pleased.
Lawmakers, regulators and an endless horde of angry mothers buffeted the company. The American Medical Association even told Mylan to drop the price. Instead, CEO Heather Bresch came out and called the price hike “fair,” blaming the increase on Obamacare.
This did not go over well. After some time, Mylan relented a bit, offering a generic version of the drug. But it was far too late. Lawsuits were filed, investigations were triggered, and the stock plummeted more than 70 percent.
But Mylan wasn’t the only medical company to create a massive PR fiasco last year. Theranos labs hit the news in a Wall Street Journal report that claimed the company could not manage to accurately process blood tests. As that was a primary driver of the company’s business, this revelation was devastating.
Theranos dealt with the consumer PR disaster by pouring gasoline on the proverbial fire. The company’s response was considered arrogant and tone-deaf, depending on who you asked, igniting even more criticism.
After the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent Theranos a letter saying at least one facility posed “immediate jeopardy to patient safety…” the die was cast. Walgreens filed a breach of contract lawsuit with Theranos, and other partner companies disavowed or broke ties.
The problems only compounded in 2017. Theranos was forced to void two years’ worth of test results, leading to sanctions and a revocation of its license to operate in California. Defiant until the end, Theranos was eventually forced to close its lab and lay off more than 300 employees.
Subsequently, CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who had recently been featured on the cover of Inc. Magazine, was banned from operating labs, effectively eliminating her company’s net worth. Holmes has recently tried to bounce back, but customers and regulators are keeping a close eye on her activities.