Ashley Madison's lesson must be heeded. For all the good pharma has done for the world, it has also created its share of ethical quagmires. Given the choice between two perceived evils, I don't know that the public would rank "cheating spouses" as being any worse than "greedy pharma executives." The findings of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll assessing the public's views of pharma companies suggests they'd pick cheaters in a heartbeat.
This is a learning opportunity for pharma, and the lessons could be hard to swallow:
- Treat threats seriously. Though the hacker group claiming responsibility warned the website beforehand, Ashley Madison failed to respond. The pharma IT groups I've met over the years are terminally overextended, putting out fires rather than planning for risks. I don't know that most pharma companies threatened with data exposure would have the bandwidth to act. That needs to change.
- Treat data carefully. Ashley Madison may have been spared a worse fate because it used a high level of encryption to protect credit card information. In contrast, I worked with an account lead at a well-known ad agency who once e-mailed me an Excel spreadsheet with the names and addresses of physicians who had registered on a client's website. It's no surprise that a lot of my team's consulting work the past year has focused on creating roadmaps for pharma companies to collect, manage and protect their CRM data.
- Improve perception. If anything, Ashley Madison flaunted its questionable ethics. (Tagline: "Life is short. Have an affair.") Then again, it didn't have much else to go on. Drug manufacturers have had more impact on extending life and reducing suffering than any other, yet their industry remains one of the least trusted in America. It has had myriad opportunities to respond, from challenging the anti-vaccine movement to improving patient engagement, but until structural changes improve its perception, the pharma industry will be vulnerable to the next big hack. (Ver anterior)
Jeff Greene is a partner and the digital strategy lead at New Solutions Factory.
Ashley Madison en PHARMACOSERIAS