I was way behind on this story relative to the pharma blogosphere (John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog, Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot, and the WSJ Health Blog), but Montel Williams has created a PR disaster for Partnership for Prescription Assistance of the industry group, PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America).
While promoting prescription assistance programs in Savannah on Friday, Williams blew up, as it were, at a Savannah Morning News high school intern. The intern, Courtney Scott, asked Williams, “Do you think pharmaceutical companies would be discouraged from research and development if their profits were restricted?” Williams abruptly canceled the interview but later ran into Scott and two other reporters at the Westin Savannah Harbor where they were doing a feature on gingerbread houses.
Thinking that Scott had followed him, AP/MSNBC reported the following:
Williams walked up to Scott and told her that “I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up,” according to Joseph Cosey, a Web content producer for the newspaper.
Scott said she filed a police report because of Williams’ behavior although she said it was unclear what Williams meant during his confrontation.
Scott has since received a note from a producer of The Montel Williams Show inviting her to appear with Williams on a taped show where he would apologize to her. Both John Mack and Ed Silverstein have polls on their respective blogs where readers can vote whether PhRMA should terminate Williams’ representation of their prescription drug assistance program for the poor. As of 0100 GMT on Tuesday, PhRMA has no information on their website regarding the incident.
Today’s editorial page of the Savannah Morning News cites that Williams, a decorated Naval officer, should have been a gentleman and apologized to Scott in person:
What’s sad is that Ms. Scott was looking forward to interviewing Mr. Williams. Her mother and grandmother are fans and watch his show. Her Navy Junior ROTC commander at Jenkins (Ms. Scott is in J-ROTC) told her he was at the U.S. Naval Academy during the same time as Mr. Williams.
Montel Williams left the Navy as a decorated officer. But he apparently left the gentleman part behind, too. Still, student-intern Scott learned a valuable lesson – how to deal with a bully.
Why I write about this incident on Terra Sig is two-fold. First is that Williams work on behalf of PhRMA’s Partnership for Prescription Assistance has helped over 4 million patients. PPARx provides an easy on-line wizard for patients to determine their eligibility for help with prescription drug costs. So, it’s a shame to see a good program tainted by Williams’ unconscionable comments.
Second, one account of the incident has Williams stating that he had multiple sclerosis, potentially inferring that his disease might have predisposed him to such an outburst. The neurology literature has a few articles on aggressive behavior in people with MS, although the National Multiple Sclerosis Society notes that children with MS often exhibit aggressive behavior.
So, will Williams cite his MS as a reason for the comments? Is there a underlying neurological basis in MS that might have predisposed him to losing his verbal filter briefly? I’m not trying to let Williams off the hook, especially when he threatened a high school intern, but these are the first questions I had when he began to mention his disease.
I’m not a physician and, frankly, am not terrifically well-versed in multiple sclerosis, so I’d welcome comments from clinicians and patients or family members having experience with MS.