The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to fake news - STATThe DCI Group’s founders began their careers running a campaign for tobacco called the smoker’s rights movement, which sought to reframe public health concerns over secondhand smoke as a matter of personal choice and freedom. The DCI Group also helped block bills to permit the reimportation of FDA approved drugs. Turing Pharmaceuticals hired DCI to help CEO Martin Shkreli when he came under legal scrutiny for high drug prices and securities fraud.
As Bower reports, Branson’s record in launching new products and breaking into competitive markets is pretty lamentable. The Virgin brand has been attached to a wide range of things – from cosmetics to cola to Formula One racing cars to retail outlets to reality TV shows to alternative fuels – that have either failed to sell or failed to work or both. Many of these products were complete turkeys. Branson’s racing car barely got off the grid (his designers had come up with a vehicle whose fuel tank was too small to run at full speed for an entire race; his team finished its two seasons in Formula One bottom of the constructors’ table). His TV show, designed to compete in the US with Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, bombed because no one wanted to watch a smug, tongue-tied Brit pretending to be a serious entrepreneur. The programme was called The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best and the idea was to put contestants through a series of stunts to test their mettle. These included getting them to dance naked on stage and to walk on a tightrope strung between two hot-air balloons. All very Branson – it’s the kind of thing he does all the time – but viewers found it hard to see what any of this had to do with the real business of business. Trump relished the show – it made him look like a genius.