Crisis Review: EpiPen Maker Under Fire

Topics: Media Relations, Public Relations

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mylan CEO Heather Bresch took center stage after outrage broke when the EpiPen maker reached an obscene 400% price hike for the lifesaving device. Regardless of what I think about our healthcare system, or Bresch’s motives, here is my take on one of Bresch’s initial interviews with CNBC’s Squawk Box:

Video courtesy of CNBC.

That Girl Can Drive Home a Point

Being portrayed as a healthcare villain and sitting in the bright lights of the hot seat, it would have been incredibly easy for Bresch to let emotions, or sheer panic, derail her. However she and her communications team clearly laid out two messages prior to the interview:

  1. Everyone who needs an EpiPen has one, and Mylan is using financial resources to ensure that even those who aren’t aware they need an EpiPen will have accessibility to one in common places.
  1. Mylan’s price hike is a result of our nation’s healthcare issues, not Bresch’s individual decisions.

Regardless of whether the second point is 100% true, Bresch stuck to these messages like her reputation, and Mylan’s plummeting shares, depended on it — because it did.

Her messages were narrow enough to make a point, but broad enough to span multiple question topics. This strategy ultimately moved the conversation with Brian Sullivan to a larger issue and provided Mylan with momentary relief from the heavy fire.  

Although it wasn’t the answer consumers wanted to hear, didn’t give clear insight as to how the price hike in our unsettling healthcare system would be solved, or directly respond to the low production cost vs high retail cost of EpiPen, the CEO did stick to her message long enough to shift the criticism and stay on track.

She Owned Up, But Didn’t Apologize

Bresch didn’t apologize, and also didn’t lie about the fact that Mylan subsidizes EpiPen in other markets such as Europe, where the product is sold for a fraction of the cost. This showcased her clear ability to know when to apologize, but more importantly know when not to apologize.

In coordination with her message that the price hike is a larger healthcare issue, an apology claiming fault would have given a clear path for the nation to call her bluff. By being responsive to Sullivan’s questions, yet staying true to her message, she was able to authentically talk through the fact that EpiPen sales in other markets are handled differently, and that she wants to change the American system — continuously aligning with her two messages.

A Little Digging Will Unearth Skeletons

Sullivan touched briefly on just a few of the many facts that clearly identify the holes in Bresch’s stance, such as the comparison of the average prescription being up 40% compared to EpiPen’s 400% increase. Her messaging gave Mylan brief reprieve, however Bresch’s communication team can’t rest yet.  

Did you have a different take on Bresch’s interview? Tweet me at @StephanieAMyers.

Get additional media training insights in the PR News Media Training Guidebook, where Connie Anderson and I provide tips for interview success.

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