Archive for September, 2006

Clearing Clouds

There’s a lot of bad news swirling around the pharmaceutical industry today. Underneath the flotsam of scandal, price-fixing, and whatever-else-have-you, there is also good news. Lives are being changed. Here is my story:


Patient: “Doctor, I’m finally ready to at least consider whether this depressiveness is an organic problem.”

Doctor: “Well, it certainly is – your brain, after all, is an organ! If you had kidney failure, you couldn’t think your way out of that, could you?”

So marked the end of a long, dark era of trying to struggle my way through feelings of depression, and the paralysis of fruitless introspection. Within two days of beginning to take an anti-depressant (at half the lowest dose!), the clouds began to clear and I began to get a glimpse of a very different “normal” – a state of peace and well-being that had eluded me for as long as I could remember.

At first, it was like walking out on a frozen pond. You gingerly put a foot forward, and silently ask, “Will it hold me?” Waking up in the morning with feelings of happiness – for no external reason! – I’d wonder if this could be real. Would it last? Where did all that negativity and uptightness go – surely a pill can’t really change the way I think and feel!

I no longer ask that question. I am a changed man. Steve version 2.0.

Some miracles come disguised in unexpected wrappings. The deliverance I sought came via a means I long resisted considering – medication. Years of futile self-effort and striving to overcome the inner darkness paled in comparison to the efficacy of an adjustment in brain chemistry.

From childhood, I walked under a cloud. Feelings of inferiority. Insecurity. Sensitivity to rejection. My emotional and psychological wiring tended toward introspection. As I progressed through grade school, I went through the painful experience of being a playground failure. Always among the last to be chosen for kickball. Undersized. Being sharp academically did not compensate for being inferior physically. Feelings of self-hatred began to settle in.

While I was relatively low-maintenance, generally conscientious and a good student, quietly building up under the surface was a pervasive sense of failure – an inability to accept myself. While the idealism of youth continued to push me uphill against the gravity of depression, there was no genuine relief from the relentless tide of melancholy. Haunted by an irrational sense of failure, I was driven to achieve, to change, to re-make myself to conform to some unattainable ideal. If I had a problem, it was up to me to fix it – you don’t lean on anyone or anything else (yes, a typical New Englander…).

So, I coped. I managed. I succeeded in life – outwardly, at least. The lonely struggle was hidden from all but a few. “Normal” was an endless inner struggle, so familiar that no other normal could be comprehended by comparison. Underneath the surface, a barbed-wire fence of unhappy thoughts, hedging every day’s pathway, best coped with by staying busy and avoiding too much time alone.

At last, I was desperate enough to take hold of the gentle hints provided for years by (who else?) my mother, who suspected that there might be something of a physiological nature going on. I had not been prepared to face such a thing – a weakness I couldn’t control by force of will! Well, what could it hurt to take an anti-depressant and just SEE if it made a difference?

It is hard to overstate the impact. I am not the same person – much to the relief of my patient wife, kids, and others! Each day is not a matter of pushing a large boulder uphill, but a level field with clear skies overhead. Now, almost three years later, I continue to grow more healthy emotionally and spiritually, almost entirely free from the dark clouds that once filled my mind and heart. I don’t see these drugs as a cure-all, but as a cure-some; and, thankfully, one of them has been a cure-me.

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The Friday Collection for Sept. 28

Rx Intelligence

Ketamine for depression? (part 2)

Some weeks back, we linked to an earlier post about this interesting potential avenue for depression treatment. Here is a follow-up (from bookofjoe.com)

If you haven’t signed up yet for the Pharmaceutical Sales Training Summit (Oct 19-20), now is the time to get on board!

More on the acquisitions front: UCB and Schwarz.

Training Intelligence

Donald Clark does a beat-down on various Instructional Design theorists on his blog:

Robert Gagne

Benjamin Bloom

Donald Kirkpatrick

I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but I think it is always valuable to question “the way it’s been done in the past,” lest we calcify…

Some very helpful information on the newer learning/communications technologies and approaches, and a bunch of other interesting stuff, from the eLearning Guild.

Just for fun...

Absolutely amazing photos of some rare cloud formations.

If you like the word game Boggle, here is an on-line version you can play, competing with “whomever” may be on-line at the time.


The Whistleblower – explosive book just out by Dr. Peter Rost, formerly of Wyeth / Pharmacia / Pfizer. It was a fast read, interesting and disturbing. My review here.

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Dr. Peter Rost recently released this book, subtitled “Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.” The Whistleblower describes his experience as a pharmaceutical executive with three different companies (Wyeth, Pharmacia, and Pfizer), focusing on some questionable practices that went on behind the scenes, and his efforts to cope with the legal and professional ramifications.

It’s engaging reading, and disturbing at the same time, with the expected doses of corporate intrigue, dirty tricks, legal maneuvering, etc. As I mentioned in a recent post, the pharma industry has no corner on the market of either virtue or vice, and there is certainly some unsavory stuff revealed in these pages. However, while reading it, the quiet voice of experience continued to remind me, chapter by chapter, that “there are two sides to every story.” This book is one side.

Pfizer managed – twice – to acquire companies (Warner-Lambert and Pharmacia) that had some dubious marketing skeletons in their closets. Dr. Rost was in the process of trying to get Pharmacia to clean up its act in his franchise (Genotropin) when the acquistion occurred, and the subsequent problems unfolded when Pfizer inherited the legacy issues (and people) surrounding this franchise. How all of this was handled and mishandled is the focus of this book.

Dr. Rost is evidently a man of no small ego, from what I can gather out of this book and his blog – not always a bad trait, as those with a strong ego drive often are the ones who persevere to accomplish big things. And I will give the man this – he’s got guts. He put it out on the line personally and professionally, when he thought there was wrongdoing. Love him, hate him, or scratch your head in perplexity – he’s got some steel in his spine.

Of course, it is impossible to verify the veracity of everything contained in this – or any similar – book. However, The Whistleblower does provide some clear warning signals, and if its end result is to make corporations tread more carefully and transparently, then perhaps good will come of it.

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With some variations, the favorite question I get to ask as a consultant.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to ask that question (and others) with two clients who are seeking to meet their upcoming training needs. What an enjoyable day it was…one of the main reasons I launched this business was that I discovered over the years that one of my true passions was sitting down with people to identify needs, brainstorm solutions, and connect up clients and providers. Sitting at a table with a blank piece of paper and a free flow of ideas, with no pre-packaged agenda, sharing best practices and figuring out how to address specific needs with practical solutions…it just doesn’t get much better than that.

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The Friday Collection for Sept. 21

Rx Intelligence

It’s been a BIG week for acquisitions…

Merck (Germany) and Serono

Nycomed and Altana

Hospira and Mayne

Some interesting progress on the diagnostics front (another small step in the pursuit of personalized medicine). Another article from Forbes here.

Getting tired of the endless drumbeat of negative press about the pharmaceutical industry? So am I

Training Intelligence

Training resources galore at Karl Kapp’s website (Karl is a professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University).

A pretty good overview of the use of games for learning.

Just for fun…

Today: Web design (a superb example).

I accidentally (while looking for the Windham Hill record label) stumbled across this site for a country inn, and was thoroughly blown away by the superb graphical/web design. Ten seconds viewing this site will make you drool with desire to make a reservation and start driving immediately!


Just finished a very interesting book, The End of Medicine. Provocative and entertaining. Review here.

Not sure who Steve Woodruff is, or what Impactiviti is all about? Click the links for a quick summary, even including a picture (please do NOT submit to HOTORNOT!)

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I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty fed up with all the bad news about the pharmaceutical industry. Everyone wants to beat up on “Big Pharma.” One-sided hatchet jobs by those bright lights of truth, Big Media. Endless lawsuits (many of dubious merit) by those paragons of virtue, Big Tort Bar. Pompous bloviations by our defenders (and practictioners!) of all that is good and pure, Big Government.

Let’s grant that there is plenty of room for criticism. Let us also grant that in any large-scale human endeavor (Big [fill-in-the-blank]), there will be corruption, greed, lying, and sundry other forms of wrongdoing. The pharmaceutical industry has no corner on the market for either virtue or vice.

One would think, however, from press coverage, that the pharmaceutical industry is nothing more than a leech on society, sucking away blood-money and giving nothing in return. Of course, bad news sells – who wants to hear about how some relatively obscure individual had her life extended, or his well-being enhanced, when there is a multi-million dollar scandal to investigate??

I do.

I am no shill for this or any other industry. I have worked as a supplier to many pharmaceutical companies and am well aware of the deficiencies and imperfections. Cynicism is easy. Until your life is changed – remarkably transformed, in my case – by a drug from one of these vilified corporations.

The goal of the pharmaceutical industry – whatever the individual failings to the contrary – is to save, extend, and enhance human life (I should include animal life as well, for those companies serving Animal Health). And that is happening every day. Except those stories rarely get out. Not enough scandal, I guess, when my children get to spend precious time with their grandmother, whose influence in their lives may well have been absent apart from the drugs that keep dangerous conditions under control.

It’s a losing battle to try to counter negative public perception by blathering on about the cost of R&D. The only real counter to the bad news is the good news – the stories of people being helped. I think we can all use a dose of encouragement that what we do really matters, in the lives of real people.

I’m tempted to launch a simple website with the sole purpose of collecting these good news stories…

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Pages: The End of Medicine

Just finished reading “The End of Medicine,” an interesting book by Andy Kessler. Kessler made his shekels in Silicon Valley, and decided to see if some of what he learned about successful business could be applied to the healthcare industry. Irreverent, funny, and approachable, the book details his quest to understand new trends in medical treatments, particularly his drive to find something that will “scale” as successful technology businesses regularly do.

The payoff is in the last few chapters, but the journey getting there is worth the time spent. Opinion Journal has a brief review of the book; here is a link to an interview with the author.

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Making impact with simulations

Having just enjoyed a very engaging session on the use of Simulations (put on by the mid-NJ ASTD Sales Training Special Interest Group), I am re-energized by the potential for this approach in pharma training. The technology for creating quality (on-line) simulations quickly has really advanced in the past few years, and I can’t help but think of a bunch of situations where a sales simulation would truly embed and reinforce learning. Would love to brainstorm ideas with any readers that feel the same…

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The Friday Collection for Sept. 15

Rx Intelligence

Another major medical center (Stanford) bans pharma industry gifts.

Stunning animation of the goings-on inside of a cell. The only thing missing is an explanation of what is happening, but some kind soul supplied that here.

For those seeking to keep on the medical devices field – the e-newsletter of AdvaMed, the advocacy company of the device world.

Training Intelligence

Lots of training resources (including a free e-newsletter) and articles; the Chief Learning Officer website. CLO puts on seminars, breakfast meetings, symposia, etc.

Thought-provoking article with a provocative title: Why (most) Training is Useless. The title of the article is the sizzle; the “steak” of the content identifies things we all wrestle with.

Just for fun…

Today: Internet radio. There are lots of streaming internet radio services, which are a great way to sample new music genres and new artists. Never a fan of AOL for ANYTHING over the years, nonetheless, their streaming radio service (including some XM channels) is quite good. For a new and personalized spin on creating your own custom music channels, check out the fascinating approach at Pandora. Here, you build your own channels, specifying artists/music you like, then Pandora consults its “music genome” to play your specified artists and other similar ones you may enjoy. Cool.

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The Friday Collection for Sept. 8

Rx Intelligence

A Cancer Focus today….

A very nicely-done, public-accessible multimedia tutorial on cancer can be found here.

Gardasil: maybe better than first thought??

A “spicy” future treatment?

Training Intelligence

For NJ area folks, an ASTD meeting focusing on the use of Simulations in Sales Training (hope to see you there!).
Sign up at the site by clicking on the link for the Sept. 14 event (left side of page).

Free coaching guide, and useful quotation database, from the folks at Emp-Higher.

A collection of blogs, focusing on eLearning:
Learning Circuits
Kevin Kruse’s e-learning guru site.
Tony Karrar
Jay Cross

Just for Fun…

All the reason you’ll ever need to conclude that Big Consulting Companies should NEVER have a company theme song!

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