Don’t the executives at Mylan Inc. ever learn? The company has filed another lawsuit against The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, related to a series of stories that the Post-Gazette ran a few months back about an FDA investigation into allegations that Mylan employees were overriding automatic safety controls. As it turns out, Mylan took care of it, the FDA’s investigation cleared Mylan and no one was hurt.
But Mylan hurt itself by the way it managed the story. Even after the FDA said that it had not yet completed its investigation, Mylan’s chief executive officer, Robert Coury kept insisting that the investigation had indeed been completed; he was of course mistaken. (I should disclose that Jampole Communications worked on a project for Mr. Coury that did not involve public relations or media relations more than 10 years ago when he was a financial planner.) Because of Mylan’s insistence on its initial version of the story—that the investigation had ended—instead of coverage on two news days, the story received coverage on five or six news days.
Here are just some of the negative stories Mylan generated about itself:
- FDA closes Mylan review, plans no action – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Mylan says FDA found no problems at Morgantown plant – Associated Press
- FDA said Mylan probe continuing – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- FDA pursuing Mylan inquiry – Pittsburgh Post Gazette
- FDA, Mylan at odds over status of probe at W. Va. plant – Pittsburgh Business Times
- Myland Says It’s in the Clear with FDA. FDA Disagrees – The Wall Street Journal Health Blog
And Mylan’s latest move, to sue The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also hurts Mylan, especially its standing with consumers who buy generic drugs; remember these folks endure a steady stream of advertising touting the innate superiority of brand-name drugs. Why remind them that the FDA recently investigated?
Filing and publicizing these lawsuits probably qualifies for any top 10 list of “Stupid PR Tricks of 2009.”
The lawsuits only keep the story of the two employees overriding a safety system in the news. The fact that Mylan came out pretty much smelling like a rose in the FDA report is lost in the hubbub over the lawsuit, which will revolve around the Post-Gazette’s right to pursue a story and its accuracy of facts. In both these areas, the newspaper stands on very solid ground, but even if it didn’t, I would have advised Mylan not to pursue a lawsuit because the publicity could never be 100% positive in favor of Mylan.
Mylan would have been better off moving away from the incident altogether. I would have advised the company to do a positive PR campaign based on the safety of its manufacturing process.