You can ignore but you can not hide from Change in Pharma

A few years ago, contrary to the recommendations in Pharmaplasia and in the face of an industry-wide “patent cliff” and a rapidly changing healthcare market, the Pharma industry went on a binge of mega-mergers and multi-billion dollar acquisitions.  The book Pharmaplasia had identified large organizational size as not only challenging but as a liability in the evolving new healthcare market.  But “Big Pharma” wanted to get “Bigger” and it took years for Pharma to appreciate the need for change that had been recommended in Pharmaplasia“eliminate facilities, people, and support systems that no longer have a role in the evolving new healthcare market.”   Now, more recently, we have seen unprecedented downsizings, including elimination of facilities and people in massive restructurings at some Big Pharma.

Sure,  change can take time, especially in large public corporations.  The status quo and doing “what we have always done” is easier but it merely delays the inevitable and can give current frontline employees a false sense of accomplishment and security.

There are over 20 specific recommendations for change in Pharmaplasia that could accelerate a positive evolution for Pharma.  If these recommendations are being ignored by your company for now, it may be just a matter of time before you are affected?

With the information and recommendations in Pharmaplasia you can determine how the changing Pharma business model will affect you in this evolving new healthcare market.  Better yet, Pharmaplasia can help you determine how to  align yourself with these changes so you can participate in these positive changes and not be caught off guard by the inevitable.

Do Manipulative Pharmaceutical Sales Techniques still work?

I’m curious and seriously don’t know the answer to this as it’s been a while since I’ve been in the field.  As a VP of  Sales (admittedly long ago) our management team continuously looked for training programs and techniques to help our sales force be more effective in the physician’s office.   Some were pretty basic but others were just outright manipulative.  I guess in the days of “reach and frequency,”  “reminder detailing,” and unencumbered access we thought we were being cleaver and maybe they even worked to some extent.  At the same time, I have to believe some of these types of techniques also contributed to physician frustration, resentment, and ultimately denied access.

The reason I am asking the question now is because I still see pharmaceutical sales training programs offering what appear to be decade’s old sales techniques that border on manipulative.  Even back in the day when I was selling (admittedly even much longer ago) we learned about “closing the physician”, challenging them, and “getting them to commit.”     I now wonder how much damage these basic sales tenants, combined with a few “tricks,” did in terms of our relationship with physicians.   The reason I say this is because there is nothing more demeaning than to have a sales person try their manipulative sales pitch on you when you go to a store to buy something.  The automobile industry learned this the hard way.  You would think the pharmaceutical industry would have learned by now as well.

But, maybe these techniques and “tricks” still work.  What do you think?  More importantly, how do physicians feel about being sold this way?

Five Underappreciated Contributions from Pharma

In my previous post I pointed out the Five Irreparable Mistakes made by Pharma.  At the same time, many patients owe their health, if not their lives, to advances in drug therapy.  The good is often overshadowed by the unethical and greedy, if not illegal activities and behaviors that make the headlines.  Here are some of the “good” that have been mitigated by the bad:

  1. Treatments for most common diseases

Decades of drug discovery and development have filled pharmacies and our medicine cabinets with a broad range of treatments for many of the common diseases that can compromise our health today.  Most of these are now available as low cost generic drugs.  Sure there are diseases yet to be conquered and recent R & D productivity has been disappointing but we still have to appreciate the numbers of affordable drug treatments we have available to day.

  1. Technology acquisition and development

There is no doubt that without pharmaceutical industry funding and development expertise, we would not have seen the benefits from technologies that would have otherwise remained hostage to under-funding in university laboratories or small biotech companies.   Depleted pipelines in the past decade forced Big Pharma to abandon the NIH (not invented here) research mentality and aggressively pursue acquisition strategies.  To the benefit of patients around the world, Pharma pulled out their checkbooks, took the financial risks, and in many cases, over paid for promising but unproven technologies.

  1. Medicine for the poor

It is easy to criticize the pharmaceutical industry for their seemingly greedy pricing policies and taking advantage of their monopolistic hold on drug treatments.  It is also important, however, to recognize that the industry has done a lot to offset costs for the poor and elderly but even more importantly, making sure that the poor in developing countries have access to drugs they need.  OK, they could have done more and could do more but you can not ignore the free medicines, discounted treatments, and global in-kind disaster support.  And let’s not forget the often criticized sampling programs that often meant the difference between a patient taking medicine that they could not afford or going without treatment.

  1. Continuing Medical Education

Despite the concerns and criticism about whether or not pharmaceutical industry CME is or was promotional and biased, the contribution the industry has made to educating healthcare providers is undeniable. The pharmaceutical industry helped educate millions of healthcare providers not only about drug therapy but about the associated diseases.  While you might debate the quality of the programs, it is clear that academia and the medical profession will have a hard time replacing the numbers of programs and frequency of reaching the numbers of physicians exposed to educational programs by the pharmaceutical industry.  Even if you discount industry sponsored programs for their promotional, biased approach, at the very least, these programs encouraged and provided regular opportunities for healthcare providers to reflect on and do their own research about a broad range of drug therapies and diseases.

  1. Providing a venue for Scientific Excellence

The pharmaceutical industry has provided a fantastic place to train, develop, and apply scientific and technical expertise.  From research and development to manufacturing, science is at the foundation of operational performance excellence.   In the end, pharmaceutical industry training and application of science leads to products and programs that positively benefit mankind in ways that are unmatched by other industries, except perhaps, by healthcare itself.

So for all the notable greed-driven bad behaviors and mistakes that characterize the pharmaceutical industry today, we should not forget the good that has been done.  Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry had the chance to be the most respected and valued industry in the world while being embraced, not begrudged, as the most profitable.  Still a laudable goal but one that will take decades to recover from past indiscretions and to demonstrate consistency of good behaviors over time while delivering clinically meaningful breakthrough drugs that can satisfy the remaining unmet medical needs.