In Social Distancing, Finding Closeness in Community


National Pharmaceutical Council President and CEO Dan Leonard discusses social distancing and the importance of community during the COVID-19 pandemic.


One of the many ironies of the COVID-19 pandemic is that even as we practice social distancing, our responsibility and imperative to support each other is increasing every day. The solution to communicable diseases has always relied on community – communities of researchers, public health officials, advocates and citizens – and this episode will be no different.

As an organization, the National Pharmaceutical Council has a responsibility to our staff, as well as those we live with and work among. We barred business travel and began teleworking as soon as the importance of social distancing became clear, and we will continue this practice until it is unquestionably safe. Modern technology like online work platforms such as Teams and Zoom have kept us together even as we work remotely. We even have a standing “check in” on Fridays where families and even our pets join us on Zoom video to wrap up our work week. The message behind this small act is that we are all in this together and we will come out of it together.

Our member companies, too, are acutely aware of their responsibility. We have seen the biopharmaceutical industry and our partners in medicine and academia immediately engage in the challenge of creating and testing promising therapies and vaccines, shifting enormous research coordination and organization to the crisis at hand. It’s important to remember that though it seems like researchers are moving with incredible speed, the work on COVID-19 stems from a scientific foundation that has taken years of work and billions of dollars of investment to create. I am extremely confident that the companies we work with every day, and the dedicated researchers and scientists in those companies, whose years of work in treating and curing disease will succeed in discovering the ultimate therapies and powerful vaccines that will win this battle.
 
And the responsibility of the biopharmaceutical industry extends beyond just the race to give our health care teams on the front lines of the pandemic better tools with which to fight the disease. There is an obligation to make sure, in this time of economic disruption, that patients can access the medicines they need. Patient support programs are in place precisely to help Americans ensure that financial distress will not inhibit their ability to access the medicines they need.
 
Finally, I want to acknowledge my personal responsibility. Of course, it’s important to limit my personal risk and the risk I may pose to others by following recommendations about social distancing. But it extends beyond that. In this time of uncertainty, I’ve pledged to keep friends, colleagues and family close, even if virtually.