2003 Woman Of The Year Luncheon

HBA's 2003 WOTY Reflects Positive Industry Values

and Our Potential to Make a Difference

Britta Herlitz, President, Herlitz HealthCare: A Communications Co; Editor, HBA Bulletin and
Rosemary Azzaro, Marketing Communications Consultant; Creative Contributor, HBA Bulletin

2003 WOTY LuncheonA wonderful thing happened to the HBA on the way to its 14th annual "Woman of the Year" (WOTY) awards luncheon: It became a powerful agent for positive change within the biopharmaceutical industry. This 26-year metamorphosis from a fledgling association with an honorable, timely mission to a seasoned, respected industry catalyst was apparent at the May 1st WOTY event; the values and the voice of that positive change were embodied in the 2003 WOTY honoree, Catherine Angell Sohn, PharmD, Vice President of Worldwide Business Development for Consumer Healthcare (CH) at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK; Philadelphia, PA), member of GSK CH's Executive Committee.

"It is a humbling honor to have been nominated by so many GSK colleagues and other colleagues for this award and to be recognized among such an august group of prior HBA Woman of the Year recipients," said Sohn to her peers gathered at the Hilton New York in Manhattan to honor her accomplishments as well as those of the 47 "Rising Stars" who joined her on the dais.

One Voice on the Value of Medicines
At the heart of this exceptional woman's moving speech was this message: It is time for industry to share one voice and educate the public about the value of medicines and the positive role that the biopharmaceutical industry plays in disease prevention.

"Most of us in this room have dedicated our careers and our lives to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry," Sohn said. "Our healthcare products provide medical, social and economic value. Our healthcare products save lives, relieve symptoms, cure, and prevent disease.

"There has been much public debate about the cost of these medicines. Our industry has been roundly criticized, and even our friends question our policies and practices," Sohn continued passionately. "We, as an industry, have done little to convey to a questioning public the value of medicines and that the real cost to society is the cost of disease."

Sohn supported her assertions on the value of medicines with powerful data, displayed via an impressive slide presentation, on the significant 10% increase in life expectancy since the 1960s. She also offered data on the high cost of disease versus the comparatively low cost of medicines that prevent and treat disease.

"The cost of heart disease is over $300 billion per year in the US. Just looking at this one disease area brings into stark relief the value and benefit brought by modern medicine to millions of patients," she said. "Cardiovascular medications such as beta blockers and statins are cost effective and life saving for so many patients. Drug therapy provides tremendous value by reducing death rates and by reducing hospital admissions, hospital stays, tests and procedures as well as improving the quality of the patients' lives.

"There are many other examples like this that we could share with each other; however, for the public, for patients, the story of the value of medicines remains untold and unheard. We need to change that," Sohn noted.

A Word of Thanks; A Call to Action
Sohn concluded with a word of thanks to the HBA: "You inspired many, as you have inspired me. Your vital role in providing educational opportunities to develop cutting-edge industry knowledge and leadership skills for HBA members nationwide must continue to grow. . . . I'd like to call on all HBA members to set the highest expectations of themselves; to nurture the young, talented people around them; to advocate for the value of medicines, and to relish every opportunity to help and support our colleagues in the healthcare industry."

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