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Archive for August, 2007

Not Swedish – here’s why

Last week, another blogger implied that perhaps I was Swedish, a notion which I quickly sought to dismiss.

Now I can reveal the reason why. I bring you: Swedish Bands of the 70’s.

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With apologies to Peter Rost, this page should be enough to convince anyone to renounce Swedish citizenship and catch the first boat out of Scandinavia. And, here are a few more.

And that goes for Finland, also!

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Impactiviti interviews Steve Woodruff, President and Founder of…Impactiviti. Steve consults with pharmaceutical clients on training, marketing, and communications initiatives, with a particular focus on strategic planning, project definition, and vendor recommendations.

Previously, Steve held Sales/Marketing/Business development positions with Pedagogue Solutions, and with a medical device company in the radiation medicine field. Steve actively blogs at the Impactiviti blog (pharma), and his blog called StickyFigure, which is focused on broader branding/marketing ideas.

Q1: Why did you start your own consulting business?

Two things converged to bring me to that rather scary decision. One, I concluded after many years in sales, that I was, in fact, more of a consultant than a salesperson – I loved hearing out challenges, thinking through solutions, and making recommendations. I would watch a real salesperson, and I’d say, “that’s not me.” I’m getting better at networking and schmoozing, but really, I’m an analytical type at heart. And secondly, I had entrepreneurial and creative drives that kept pushing to the surface, and I finally decided that the best way to use my skills was to build a business around…my skills. I happen to agree with Seth Godin that true job security means the hard work of creating something remarkable – not necessarily punching a clock.

Q2: Why was it scary?

It’s still scary. Starting a business means always living on the edge of potential failure. There’s no safety net. But I’d rather take the chance, and even risk failure, than look back later in life with regret that I didn’t have the courage to pursue my vision. One year in, I continue to approach each day with a sense of growing confidence – and stubborn fear.

Q3: What has been most fulfilling thus far?

Two things. One is sitting down with clients, hearing out their particular training needs, and being able very quickly to “match” them with a great provider. These win-win arrangements (the “recommendation” service which is unique to my business model) give me a real thrill because I have just saved a client from the headache of trying to guess who might make a good partner, and I’ve just helped my vendor/partner find new business that matches their abilities. I love that. The second thing has been to have the privilege to work with one particular client on a much fuller-scope assignment, evaluating a major part of their training structure and recommending major architectural changes (also vetting suppliers to help make it happen). I’m a big-picture, strategic thinker and those types of engagements are incredibly rewarding.

Q4: Who is your favorite client? And your favorite vendor/partner?

I’m a parent – I know this drill. They’re all my favorites! Actually, I’m privileged to regularly interact with some absolutely wonderful people, both on the client side and the supplier side. And I make it a point to build partnerships only with collaborative, quality, ethical companies. That’s the only way I can confidently provide recommendations. Did I avoid that question skillfully enough? Should I go into politics?

Q5: How do you keep up with all the blogging, and putting out a weekly newsletter?

I have too many ideas. And I love to write. After a year of blogging, I feel like I’m just now beginning to find my “voice.” Which, by the way, includes more humor than has been seen up ’til now…

Q6: What’s with that “other” blog, StickyFigure?

I’ve always been fascinated with branding and marketing. I focus on those topics on a separate blog, because many of those themes are not necessarily pharma-related. However, I view training, communications, and marketing as very closely related disciplines – they are all about using media and methods to make impact, to inform, to change minds, to inspire action. It’s a bit of a compulsion for me – I remember dreaming up a marketing campaign for some moving company way back in my teen years. When it comes to training, I believe in adult learning and instructional design, of course – but I’m always thinking about creativity, engagement, and impact.

Q7: Finally, how is your business doing?

I’m the odd type of consultant that gets a lot done in a short amount of time. Sometimes, all I need is 30 to 60 minutes to help clients find solutions (that’s the free recommendation service). So, yes, I am ready to work with more clients. I need to get out as much as possible!

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After Hours 8_30

You think your commute is wild? I used to think driving over an hour each way (thankfully, that’s in the past) was an adventure…until I saw this. A rusty cable, a hook, a stick…and an amazing ride 1,200 feet up.

Is your Help Desk a bit short of friendly? Check out this approach.

A couple weeks ago, we saw an amazing tennis shot. Now, here’s a golf shot by Fuzzy Zoeller that will blow your mind.

aerogel_hand-sm.jpgFinally…wouldn’t you like to get your hand(s) on some aerogel? This stuff – also called “frozen smoke” - sounds simply amazing.

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On the Oncology front…

Bayer‘s Nexavar shows encouraging results: Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals said they were stopping a late clinical liver cancer trial with Nexavar in the Asia-Pacific region so patients can get the drug sooner after encouraging results…more

Vaccinating against other cancers? Should boys get the vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in women? Maybe, a new analysis suggests, because the same virus that causes cervical cancer may also cause cancers of the tongue and tonsils….more

Cancer drug stalls, while Alzheimer’s drug advances: Matuzumab failed in a mid-stage trial of colon cancer patients who had already failed other therapies. The drug, developed by Merck KGaA and Takeda, will continue to be studied for non-small cell lung cancer…more

Meanwhile, in the bloodstream

Amgen gets a small victory in the ongoing patent battle with Roche on anemia treatments: A federal judge has ruled that Mircera, a Roche anemia drug that would compete with Amgen’s Epogen and Aranesp, violates an Amgen patent…more

New treatment to stem bleeding during surgery approved: U.S. regulators approved on Tuesday a blood-clotting protein to stem bleeding during surgery, made by Omrix Biopharmaceuticals Inc and to be distributed by Johnson & Johnsonmore

MGI grabs rights to an experimental blood disorder drug: MGI Pharma Inc. has obtained the rights from a small New Jersey company to commercialize a drug for treating a blood disorder that affects millions of people. AKR-501 was developed to treat thrombocytopenia, an abnormal drop in blood cells (or platelets) involved in forming blood clots…more

And, in other news…

Schering-Plough/Merck combo drug for allergies now under FDA review (Claritin/Singulair): Schering-Plough/Merck Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday the Food and Drug Administration accepted its new drug application for a combination of allergy drugs Claritin and Singulair….more

Merck‘s proposed cholesterol drug (niacin plus anti-flushing) may show up mid-2008: Merck & Co on Wednesday said U.S. regulators accepted its marketing application for the company’s cholesterol fighter Cordaptive, and a decision on the potential blockbuster product is likely in the second quarter of 2008…more (and by the way, who came up with the awful name Cordaptive???)

Sanofi, like Novartis, now under the legal gun for discrimination: Four women sales workers in the United States have sued drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis for $300 million, contending they were denied promotions and paid less than their male counterparts…more

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In a surprise move today, the heads of the Top Twenty Big Pharma companies announced that all mistakes, scandals, negative side effects, approval delays, and “other bad staff” would all be outsourced to the tiny country of Sri Lanka. “Frankly, we’re sick of dealing with it all,” said Hank McSpinnell, President and CEO of the new Offshoring Umbrella Union (OffUU). We’ve got pills to manufacture, and profits to make…who’s got time for all these unsavory issues? We’re fed up to here with politicians taking potshots from Washington D.C., snippy pharma bloggers exposing our wrongdoing, and disgruntled sales reps firing away at us in CafePharma.com. We might even ship some of them out, too – then let’s hear them whine about their company camel!

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The ceremonial first box of “bad stuff” is delivered to Mr. Rajapharma from Mr. McSpinnell

The President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahendra Rajapharma, was ecstatic about being chosen as the new home for negative pharma issues. “Some might view this as becoming a dumping ground, but we see it as a growth market. What is growing faster these days than negative P.R., vitriolic attacks, frivolous lawsuits, and overpaid executives? All we have to do is skim 5% off the top and we’re set for the next millennium!” Mr. Rajapharma did express concern at the possible flood of refugee lawyers seeking citizenship in his country, but he figured that a mandatory 2-year tour of duty shoveling yak dung should help pay for the transition, at no expense to the country, since they already seem to be trained in the practice anyway.

cargo.jpgThe first shipment of negative side effects – mostly heart palpitations, but also a few kidney lesions and one or two bladder infections – foundered off the coast of Indonesia on its way to Sri Lanka due to unforeseen side effects. However, it will be followed next week by 300 black box warnings, several FDA officials, and possibly Forest Labs – “Nobody can stand looking at their ugly logo any longer,” according to Mr. McSpinnell. It has been rumored that a bound and gagged whistleblower or two may be included as well.

The OffUU is reportedly also scouting toxic waste dump locations overseas for bad quarterly earnings reports and Corporate Integrity Agreements.

(Image credits – ship / meeting)

The Pharma Side, August 30, 2007
Copyright 2007 Impactiviti LLC

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Two news releases this morning on good effects of statins:

Continued Statin use Boosts Post-Stroke Outcomes – Hospitalized stroke patients who stop taking their cholesterol-lowering statin drugs — even for a short time — may increase their long-term risk of death and disability, researchers report… (more, from Forbes.com)

How Statins can help to protect from Alzheimer’s – Statins, the anti-cholesterol drugs taken by three million Britons, can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, researchers say. An analysis of brain tissue has provided the first direct evidence that statins – taken to prevent heart disease and strokes – can also ward off dementia and memory loss… (more, from Daily Mail)

Hat tip: the ever-helpful Corey Nahman.

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After Hours 8_24

After Hours is a weekly collection of random interesting stuff I’ve found during my voyages hither and yon. Enjoy!

Is Steve Woodruff actually a Swedish policeman toting an AK-47 to work?

I wish I’d know about this sooner. Kids are now being diagnosed with Youthful Tendency Disorder.

Time Magazine’s 50 best websites of 2007.

Google Earth now expands to Google Sky. Very, very cool.

Truveo. May be the best interface/search engine yet for finding videos on the net (hat tip: Wall Street Journal). Here’s a very funny prank video that you may enjoy.

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Novartis gets approval for Reclast, a once-per-year osteoporosis treatment. That’s a game-changer – very cool advance that should lead to far better patient compliance.

A long-ish article on Wyeth‘s efforts to find Alzheimer’s treatments. It’s a risky R&D commitment, but nobody questions that desirability of finding new advances here. Also, MedAd News has a brief interview piece on Wyeth’s biopharma organization.

Novo Nordisk reports encouraging Phase 3 results for yet another diabetes treatment. Liraglutide is a human analogue of a naturally occurring hormone. Novo is developing it for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and hopes to submit it for regulatory approval in mid-2008. (Editorial note: I really respect Novo’s business model re: diabetes. Focus, focus, focus!)

Forest and Daiichi Sankyo to co-promote pending hypertensive (combo) treatment. Azor incorporates amlodipine besylate and olmesartan medoxomil, which are respectively the main ingredients in Pfizer’s Norvasc and Daiichi Sankyo’s Benicar.

EyeonFDA blog reports that the FDA drug approval rate ain’t what it used to be. I think we all knew that, but the article has a link with numbers, if you’re into that.

Eye-opening letter from Jim Cornelius, CEO of BMS, to employees, addressing an upcoming need to reorganize (read: downsize). It’s an interesting one, actually. There is a bit of corporate-speak, as in these phrases: “…as part of resetting our cost base, there would need to be headcount reductions in some parts of the company…The changes we are considering center around the transformation of our model to execute our strategy…Your compliance and integrity will be vital as, moving forward with our productivity transformation, we will empower decision-making at the appropriate levels throughout the company.” But, to be fair, other parts of the letter are pretty plain and straightforward…for a CEO.

Business Week reports that Medicis is making good progress in the derm market.

Are Glaxo and Novartis making stupid investments in vaccines? A 40-person company thinks so…

Antisoma may be on to something good for lung cancer.

And now, a handful of longer analysis pieces, from MedAd News and Pharmaceutical Executive:

Does the blockbuster model have a future?

Avandia Sales Away

Tibotec (a J&J company) gets AIDS.

A look at the drugs of tomorrow.

Marketing to professionals

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Portal Update

Pageflakes has recently updated their portal software, and the interface is cleaner and slicker now. If you haven’t visited lately, take a fresh look at the portals we created to give you fingertip access to leading blogs, all in one place:

Pharmacentral (over 30 pharma bloggers, including news, training/marketing, gossip, and more)

Training Bloggers (over 50 blogs in the training/eLearning/Gaming/education realm)

Marketing Bloggers (over 100 marketing bloggers – marketing, branding, social media, technology, and more)

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hair-pull-sm.jpgMaybe you don’t actually WANT to! Maybe you HAVE to (really, it’s not all that bad. It can even be fun, in a root-canal kind of way)! And, if you’re in a smaller and mid-sized pharma company, you may be facing this for the first time. I feel bad putting the hair-pulling picture in, because I actually enjoy technology, but if you’re facing a technology training initiative for the first time and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what the issues are and how to begin, it can be…intimidating!

Here are a few introductory thoughts, brought to you in good old consultant-speak (but, hopefully understandable):

When trying to come up with a strategy for using training technology, the many options now available are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the sheer number of possible avenues (and providers) can seem overwhelming. On the other hand, however, there are so many mature platforms now, many of them far more cost-effective and scalable than in the past, that this is a great time to be making technology decisions. Trust me. I was working on these in the wild west days of 6-10 years ago. The options are so much better now.

As your training department evolves and matures its approach, and continues to support a growing field force, it is crucial that a technology solution be put in place to help administer the process. It’s either that, or drown in paper. Care must be taken, however, that the right solution for both present and future circumstances be chosen. These are the primary factors that must inform your decision:

1. The solution should ultimately bring greater simplicity, not more complexity, to the department. Your training department may be stretched thin personnel-wise. Internal resources to spec out, evaluate, implement, manage and administer a technology application may be scarce. Therefore, a solution that will subtract from, not add to, the workload is highly desirable. Do you want more work? I didn’t think so.

2. The provider and the platform must be solid, reliable, and proven. No fly-by-nights need apply. This is mission-critical data and functionality. A provider that is non-responsive, not established in the field, or out of touch with the realities on the ground of pharma field training will not be a good fit. The provider must have a track record of partnering with similar companies. And, a platform that is not already being used in a similar way to that anticipated by your department, with good success, is not an ideal candidate. A lot of these companies talk a good game. Mere words, and $2.85, will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

3. The platform must be flexible and scalable. Your needs will evolve and grow over time – guaranteed. The platform needs to grow with it. It must be scalable, not only in sheer number of users, but also in price (that is, you are paying for what you need right now, not investing a huge amount up front for overkill), and in capabilities (new functions, compliance regs, extension to other departments, globalization, internal/external hosting, etc.). The provider of this platform needs to be viewed as a long-term partner in your overall learning approach. Let’s put it another way – this is not simply a one-time transaction. You need to be really comfortable with the platform and the company, because you’re now basically getting engaged.

4. The platform needs to adhere to relevant data security and learning technology standards. I recently heard about one LMS that apparently doesn’t conform even to basic AICC data standards. That’s like having a car with the steering wheel in the back seat.

5. Some form of “outsourcing” should be available. Since there may not be sufficient resources to manage a learning technology platform in the short and/or mid-term, there should be the possibility of outsourcing the hosting, and possibly the administration, of the platform for some period of time.

Projected Requirements

At minimum, the learning platform should have the following features and capabilities (warning – large list of bullet points, some of which may be obscure. That’s how consultants make a living):

- Ability to house, and/or launch, web-based courseware
– Ability to house, and/or launch other electronic files (.pdf files, Word documents, Powerpoints, etc.)
– AICC-compliant code to track launch and completion of courses
– Ability to house, and launch, on-line assessments (and possibly surveys)
– Ability to interface with other database systems (such as HR and internal LMS platforms)
– Ability to be hosted and/or administered by external (outsourced) resources
– Ability to be “brought inside” in the future, with no loss of data
– Ability to present to each student a customized learning plan – all assigned and required Learning Experiences (LEs) are shown in a personalized fashion upon login
– Ability to provide customized management views/reports to both field and inside managers, with view rights based on login (e.g., a DSM can only see his/her reps)
– Ability to capture electronic signatures, if needed, for 21CFR11 compliant record-keeping
– Ability to scale to multiple thousands of users, and to multiple languages, if needed
– Platform must track user and LE (Learning Experience: course, test, etc.) over time, and provide basic analytics and statistics
– Secure database schema, and login protocols, so that user data cannot be accessed by unauthorized users
– Web-based interface with no plug-ins required

The right decision will be based on which solution most closely meets both your short-term and long-term needs and requirements. Existing software applications in your enterprise may or may not actually be suitable – perhaps R&D already bought a Learning Management System. It may not be a good choice for Sales. In fact, it usually isn’t. I’m just saying.

And now, the shameless consultant plug. I’ve had my head wrapped around training technology for over a decade, and I groove on it. I enjoy working with clients who are trying to figure out what is needed (establishing requirements and specs), articulating that internally and to vendors (RFPs), and selecting solutions. So, if you need some expert help, from someone who will add value but not take you for a ride financially, give me a call. I speak your language, and I can hold my own with the geeks, vendors, executive stakeholders, and everyone else who gets involved. Except Barclay. No-one understands him.

(Image credit)

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