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Archive for June, 2007

20070629203500.jpgA moment of insight from blogger Andrew Sullivan, on the effect of euro-style socialism on pharmaceutical innovation. Not a pretty picture…

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A Toe in the Blog Water

Fellow blogger Toby Bloomberg over at Diva Marketing writes a review of two pharma companies who are beginning to explore the blogosphere. GSK’s effort is focused on just-released OTC product ALLI; J&J’s blog is more general. Check out Toby’s summary and the links provided.

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Random Interesting Stuff

I come across a lot of items on the web that aren’t necessarily related at all to pharma-world, but some of it sure can be downright interesting! So here is a potpourri of recent finds:

How many of your favorite comic strips came to be born (from Neatorama, where others of these links were found).

Ever seen a Zorse before? I didn’t think so…

Anyone ever tossed something your way that you just couldn’t swallow? Probably wasn’t near as bad as this fellow had it…

Scroll down a bit to see some of the coolest jet contrail photos ever.

Ever wonder about all those ancient-looking wooden water towers on NYC buildings? Wonder no more.

The wonderful looking Flatiron building in Manhattan, from the horse and buggy days.

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Time was, corporate misdeeds could be pretty effectively covered up. Sure, some scandals would leak out and make headlines, but information could often be contained, insiders constrained, or ignorance feigned.

transparent2.jpgNo more. We’re in a time of new transparency.

It’s getting very difficult to keep the lid on wrongdoing, and I, for one, think that is a good thing. What has changed? In a word, electronic communications.

Damning information is leaking out all over nowadays. In our industry, there has been a significant uptick in corporate e-mails, Powerpoint slides, documents, and other documentation of wrongdoing flowing out and becoming public. Much of this has occurred through the emerging pharma blogger community (most notably, Peter Rost over at Question Authority; but now others, such as Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, are being given such info).

Of course, a lot of “after the fact” electronic information gets exposed during trials, as archived e-mails and other documents are unearthed. But now, we no longer have to wait for the discovery process of trials. We’ve seen information leaked, exposure occur, investigations begun, and people fired within weeks – because blogs suddenly make it possible to publicize information almost immediately. Including pictures and videos (far more ubiquitous nowadays).

This has its dangers, of course. Most bloggers are not trained journalists. Sometimes due diligence has not occurred. Rushes to judgment can occur. But when clear electronic evidence is brought to light…well, a refusal to take action suddenly becomes less of an option.

This forced transparency can have a salutary effect. Ethical behavior may be forced on those who otherwise would blur the lines. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But if you’re playing games, the likelihood now is far greater that you’ll pay the price. Very publicly.

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Some robust pipelines: Glaxo Oncology, and J&J.

Cephalon moving more rapidly on oncology candidate Treanda.

Glaxo’s cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix looking good.

Byetta, a diabetes drug from Amylin and Lilly, shows solid results after 3 years of usage.

More good press for Actos, Takeda’s competitor to Avandia.

Cholesterol agents acting against diabetic nerve pain?

Two-pronged approach to treating diabetes – the DPP-4 inhibitor plus metformin combination.

Bayer pursuing the hope of selling a low-dose statin OTC.

Merck will get a speedy review for a new class of HIV drug. Also, hopeful preliminary results for a migraine drug candidate.

Pfizer hits snags with experimental cancer and HIV treatments.

Pfizer’s Lyrica gets clearance for Fibromyalgia indication. Question – where did the 1 in 50 statistic come from??

Novartis’ growing high blood pressure franchise. Now featuring ExForge.

From the scandal sheet – BMS, Schering, AZ lose Massachusetts suit over drug pricing. Here is a more detailed analysis of the AWP issue. And, Pfizer’s growing headaches with possible internal violations on HIV (Viracept) marketing.

How to schmooze any doc, from a former Zyprexa rep. Not really news to anyone involved in sales training, but it’s just one more check mark on the “looks bad to the public” tally sheet.

Some thoughts on patient adherence/compliance, from the ever-thoughtful Jane Chin.

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Last week, I was sitting in a workshop where the theme was a customer-focused selling program.

Now I’m all for customer focus in every aspect of business. That’s what it’s all about. But something was sticking in my craw as I sat through this session (which had to do with a customer-focused selling methodology in the pharmaceutical industry).

Here’s what it boils down to: is this “customer-focused” approach an end in itself? Or is it just a means to an end?

Let me explain. A pharmaceutical sales representative succeeds by promoting the usage (hopefully, by promoting the properly defined usage) of his/her company’s products. Fair enough. But how is success actually MEASURED? Is it customer satisfaction?

Actually, a few of the key tangible measures of success by which a sales rep is held accountable are the following:

    1. Increased prescription business
    2. Number of calls made per day
    3. Promotional actions correctly taken (samples delivered, dinner meetings set up, etc., etc.)

These are company-centric, quota-centric, performance-centric measures. And, in fact, these more tangible, objective activities and outcomes are more easily measured than something such as customer satisfaction.

I’m not saying that any of these are unimportant, or shouldn’t be tracked. What makes me uncomfortable is that the real goal ends up being what is measured. Teachers “teach to the test.” And reps perform to the yardstick to which they are accountable.

All of which makes a “customer-focused” selling program seem like a means to an end, not an end in itself. There is the whiff of hypocrisy that seems to hover over the whole thing. Are companies rolling out these programs because of a core belief in being customer-centered? Or because they “work” better toward the real end, which is better numbers? Is it, ultimately, just another form of manipulation, albeit based on good selling principles?

Is it a core commitment? Or just another technique? You see, I absolutely believe in customer focus. I practice a consultative approach, as everyone knows who knows me. What I’m driving at is belief and motivation. Do I/we do it because it is right? Or just because it works?

customer-focus.jpgI should conclude this post by saying that I have been in sales – in one form or another – for 20+ years. The times when I have been most uncomfortable as a salesman are when I’ve seriously questioned, in my own heart and conscience, whether what I was offering was really the best choice for the customer. Does slathering a “customer-focused” technique over that cognitive dissonance make one a better salesperson? Or just another peddlar, trying to make a buck any way possible?

Or am I just being too cynical?

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I’ve been on a slow boil for months over bloggers who abuse basic rules of grammar and spelling. This morning, a Drugwonks post put me over the edge (Drugwonks, fyi, is a pro-industry blog). Robert Goldberg writes a post taking Peter Rost to task for some revelations about Viracept marketing. Here is an excerpt that would make any English teacher cry:

    Pfizer, according to Rost, was quick to launch marketing materials regarding Viracept. It’s materials were not issued and released INTERNALLY consisted with it’s own guidelines and the release was shut down. Therefore Rost cannot contain his glee at the expense of the former employe whom he drew a no-show salary from to the tune of over $600K a year while suing them.

school-marm.jpgIf you want to be taken seriously, why would you undermine your credibility by packing so many errors into one paragraph? It’s/its. Consisted/consistent. Employe/employer. The second sentence defies all attempts at logical interpretation. And the construction of that last sentence should lead to an arrest for grammatical abuse.

I have a suggestion, not only for Drugwonks, but for all bloggers. Read your post before you publish. Then, read it again on the site after you publish (I’ve caught many of my own errors this way simply because of the format change). And learn the rules of basic English spelling and grammar. Then your message might actually get through, instead of getting lost due to eroded credibility…

There, I feel better now. Sorry, DW, that you had to be in the way with that post when the lid blew. Now, do yourselves a favor and invest a few minutes in a re-write, will you?

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