Archive for September, 2007

Jenna Sweeney has this excellent post on the effectiveness of gaming for training.

game-play.jpgI have felt for a long time that this is a vastly under-utilized tool for pharma sales training. The competitive aspect of multi-player immersive gaming, and the potential for learning by repetition (in a mission-oriented game that is designed to make the players answer questions and learn), make this type of approach very effective, especially for the upcoming younger generations who are used to this approach.

I’ve included simulation and gaming developers in my partner network. Let me know if this is an approach you’d like to consider. Oh, and if you’re worried about budget dollars – presenting a high-end game concept to a brand manager, whose product will gain mindshare among the reps by rolling it out, makes for some good synergy in a marketing/training spend. (that’s a very awkward sentence. I’m sure to hear about it from my mother, a former teacher…)

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I cannot believe that September is about over.

This has been my busiest month ever at Impactiviti, and I’m grateful for the clients who have put their trust in me to provide value with strategic thinking and targeted recommendations.

Now, onto the news of this week:

Pfizer gets a favorable ruling about Neurontin patent; may be real problem for some generic makers that made an “at-risk” launch: Pfizer Inc. said a federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that several generic-drug makers did not infringe its patent on gabapentin, the active ingredient in Neurontin, a shingles-pain treatment…more

Novartis gets good news (in Europe) on Tasigna, AND Galvus combo pill: Novartis AG’s experimental leukemia drug Tasigna — a follow-up to its second biggest-seller Glivec — has been recommended for approval in Europe for patients who no longer respond to Glivec. The European Medicines Agency also said on Friday it had backed a new tablet, called Eucreas, combining the Swiss group’s Galvus pill with the older medicine metformin as a treatment for diabetes…more . The EU also approved Galvus as a solo med. However, Novartis gets the expected KO from the FDA regarding Prexige.

Daiichi Sankyo gets the nod for a combo hypertension med: Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo said on Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its new pill for high blood pressure, which combines ingredients from two drugs already on the market…more

Yet more good stuff on Roche‘s Avastin: New clinical data showed Avastin improved the chances of a removal of metastatic lesions in patients with colorectal cancer, Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG said on Monday…more

Yet more good stuff on Takeda‘s Actos: Results presented today at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes demonstrate the ability of ACTOS® (pioglitazone HCl) to reduce the risk of ischemic cardiovascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes…more

Cholesterol drugs as bacteria killers?? Cholesterol lowering drugs such as Merck & Co.’s Zocor kill some bacteria, including drug-resistant germs found in many hospitals, though the pills aren’t powerful enough to be used as stand-alone antibiotics, researchers said…more

Arsenic. It works.

Including realism in DTC advertising – some comments by John Mack on Pfizer‘s marketing approach with Chantix.

Wyeth names a new CEO to take over in January.

Teva: A Favored Pharma, according to Business Week.

Moving toward even more disclosure about spending by pharmas: It’s no secret that some drug companies pay for doctors to attend medical conferences in exotic locales. Others treat them to pricey meals and pass out pens and Post-it notes branded with product names. All told, drug and medical-device makers dole out an estimated $19 billion worth of gifts to physicians every year–a practice that worries New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, among others. On Sept. 19 she summoned a task force to consider putting limits on this orgy of gratuities…more (from Business Week)

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Reactive vs. Strategic

Meeting with a client yesterday to start mapping out a strategic initiative, I was struck afresh by how many decisions are made in “reactive” mode in sales training departments. Many of the programs, systems, and suppliers in place are there only because a certain need had to be met at the time. What this often leads to, over time, is a patchwork landscape that has no real strategic design.

Why does this occur? I can think of several reasons:

  • Many sales training departments are running at 100 miles per hour and almost never have the time to step back and think of the big picture
  • The majority of folks in sales training are in a “developmental” role, and aren’t going to be there for the long haul. Therefore, they can only focus on immediate problems, not long-term.
  • Virtually everyone in sales training has come out of the field – and often, a sales person is neither naturally inclined toward, nor trained in, long-term strategic planning.
  • Since there is a fair amount of vendor-dependence in pharma sales training, with many decisions made based on relationships and short-term demand, naturally suppliers will steer a client toward a solution that is optimal for…the supplier, who is not necessarily interested in or well-versed in the entire strategic picture.

two-head-turtle.jpgWhat you want to strive for is unified direction and leadership, around a single strategic vision, with a clear pathway on how to get from A to B. Otherwise, things will tend to spin around in multiple directions based on reactions to whatever comes down the pike (I wrote this paragraph because my brother just forwarded me a picture of a two-headed turtle. Had to get that image in here somehow…!)

A good consultant (hopefully, that would be me) can help clients step back, take an objective look at what exists and what the gaps are, and sketch out the vision of what ought to be, along with a blueprint on how to get there. Many times, consultants are viewed as money drains (and some have richly earned the reputation). But a good consultant, who knows best practices from multiple companies, will end up multiplying the effectiveness of the department, and more than pay for him/herself by recommending wise and practical strategic direction.

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In a creative new move to increase market share, Behemouth Pharmaceuticals has switched from the practice of having sales reps leave drug samples, instead having them leave samples of communicable diseases.

“Look, we’ve taken a lot of flak over this practice of leaving drug samples, you know what I’m saying?” said J.P. MacRost, President and CEO of Behemouth. “People think we’re manipulating the healthcare marketplace, and besides, it hasn’t effectively increased market share. But at a recent executive retreat, it came to us in a flash of insight – what better way to increase the market for our drugs than to increase the number of diseased patients?”

Petri dishes containing an assortment of germs, bacteria, and proprietary “disease accelerant” substances are being left near ventilation openings in exam rooms throughout the United States. The selected pathogens are specifically configured to help trigger disease states addressed by Behemouth products. The branded petri dishes, once used, can then be used as very nice coffee cup holders on desks, prominently displaying the Behemouth logo and tagline, “Dishing it out for your patients!”

A sampling of independent healthcare professionals specially chosen by Behemouth for further comment seemed to give the new program a very positive ‘two thumbs up.’ “Our sample closet was getting a little crowded anyway, and we had more cures than we had diseases in this office. Now, with the Progressive Petri Program, we know exactly what diseases we’re going to be treating, and just what products to use for the set of maladies that have been assigned to us that we are seeing a lot of,” declared Dr. Fatladie Singh, of East Moline, IL.

Patient groups were outraged. Wynne E. Wigglesworth, spokesperson for The American Society of Outraged Patients (ASOP), declared “We’re outraged! This is outrageous behavior by these irresponsible drug companies. It will lead to further outrages, like leaving plague-infested pens in hospitals, or sprinkling E. Coli on waiting room chairs. The next time I see one of those Ken or Barbie doppelgangers in my doctor’s office, I’m going to pour forth my outrage all over their carefully-coiffed heads. Unless I get a nice mug or calendar out of it, of course.”

According to industry blog DrugWinks, this approach, while yet unproven, may be just what the doctor ordered for helping pharmaceutical companies reach their financial goals. “People have been hitting us for years on the supply-demand side – too many sales reps for the same amount of doctors, etc., etc….you know the drill. With the disease sampling approach, we can now even out supply and demand quite nicely – however much of a drug is in inventory at any given time, the number of afflicted patients can be ratcheted up to even things out. It’s capitalism at its finest.”

Thus far, very few physicians have been willing to take on the leprosy samples or the flesh-eating bacteria being offered by Behemouth’s Pfatal Pharma division; however, a few educational programs in Bermuda along with some very nice engraved rosewood pens may create an uptick despite concerns expressed by skittish office employees.

(Image credit)


The Pharma Side
Copyright 2007 Impactiviti LLC

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Last week, I wrote about a moving speech by Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor dying of pacreatic cancer, who delivered “the lecture of a lifetime.”

This story, which was featured by the Wall Street Journal and grew viral on the Internet, led to an explosion of attention and has deeply impacted many.

Today, the WSJ does a follow up story (below; site link is here, subscription may be required) about the aftermath. Also, at the bottom of this post, a link to the full video of his speech.

The Professor’s Manifesto; What it Meant to Readers

As a boy, Randy Pausch painted an elevator door, a submarine and mathematical formulas on his bedroom walls. His parents let him do it, encouraging his creativity.

Last week, Dr. Pausch, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told this story in a lecture to 400 students and colleagues.

“If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let ’em do it,” he said. “Don’t worry about resale values.”

As I wrote last week, his talk was a riveting and rollicking journey through the lessons of his life. It was also his last lecture, since he has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.

After he spoke, his only plans were to quietly spend whatever time he has left with his wife and three young children. He never imagined the whirlwind that would envelop him. As video clips of his speech spread across the Internet, thousands of people contacted him to say he had made a profound impact on their lives. Many were moved to tears by his words — and moved to action. Parents everywhere vowed to let their kids do what they’d like on their bedroom walls.

“I am going to go right home and let my daughter paint her wall the bright pink she has been desiring instead of the “resalable” vanilla I wanted,” Carol Castle of Spring Creek, Nev., wrote to me to forward to Dr. Pausch.

People wanted Dr. Pausch to know that his talk had inspired them to quit pitying themselves, or to move on from divorces, or to pay more attention to their families. One woman wrote that his words had given her the strength to leave an abusive relationship. And terminally ill people wrote that they would try to live their lives as the 46-year-old Dr. Pausch is living his. “I’m dying and I’m having fun,” he said in the lecture. “And I’m going to keep having fun every day, because there’s no other way to play it.”

For Don Frankenfeld of Rapid City, S.D., watching the full lecture was “the best hour I have spent in years.” Many echoed that sentiment.

ABC News, which featured Dr. Pausch on “Good Morning America,” named him its “Person of the Week.” Other media descended on him. And hundreds of bloggers world-wide wrote essays celebrating him as their new hero. Their headlines were effusive: “Best Lecture Ever,” “The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Seen,” “Randy Pausch, Worth Every Second.”

In his lecture, Dr. Pausch had said, “Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.” Scores of Web sites now feature those words. Some include photos of brick walls for emphasis. Meanwhile, rabbis and ministers shared his brick-wall metaphor in sermons this past weekend.

Some compared the lecture to Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man Alive” speech. Celina Levin, 15, of Marlton, N.J., told Dr. Pausch that her AP English class had been analyzing the Gehrig speech, and “I have a feeling that we’ll be analyzing your speech for years to come.” Already, the Naperville, Ill., Central High School speech team plans to have a student deliver the Pausch speech word for word in competition.

As Dr. Pausch’s fans emailed links of his speech to friends, some were sheepish about it. “I am a deeply cynical person who reminds people frequently not to send me those sappy feel-good emails,” wrote Mark Pfeifer, a technology project manager at a New York investment bank. “Randy Pausch’s lecture moved me deeply, and I intend to forward it on.”

In Miami, retiree Ronald Trazenfeld emailed the lecture to friends with a note to “stop complaining about bad service and shoddy merchandise.” He suggested they instead hug someone they love.

Near the end of his lecture, Dr. Pausch had talked about earning his Ph.D., and how his mother would kiddingly introduce him: “This is my son. He’s a doctor, but not the kind who helps people.”

It was a laugh line, but it led dozens of people to reassure Dr. Pausch: “You ARE the kind of doctor who helps people,” wrote Cheryl Davis of Oakland, Calif.

Dr. Pausch feels overwhelmed and moved that what started in a lecture hall with 400 people has now been experienced by millions. Still, he has retained his sense of humor. “There’s a limit to how many times you can read how great you are and what an inspiration you are,” he says, “but I’m not there yet.”

Carnegie Mellon has a plan to honor Dr. Pausch. As a techie with the heart of a performer, he was always a link between the arts and sciences on campus. A new computer-science building is being built, and a footbridge will connect it to the nearby arts building. The bridge will be named the Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge.

“Based on your talk, we’re thinking of putting a brick wall on either end,” joked the university’s president, Jared Cohon, announcing the honor. He went on to say: “Randy, there will be generations of students and faculty who will not know you, but they will cross that bridge and see your name and they’ll ask those of us who did know you. And we will tell them.”

Dr. Pausch has asked Carnegie Mellon not to copyright his last lecture, and instead to leave it in the public domain. It will remain his legacy, and his footbridge, to the world.

(The complete 1.5 hour speech is here on Google Video)



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sample-closet.jpgWill it be the end of drug sampling as we know it? Tune in Friday morning, as Impactiviti reveals the secret plan of one “Big Pharma” company to take a radical new approach to sampling…

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Wanted: Instructional Designers

It’s a fairly common occurrence that I get quiet inquiries, from both the client and the provider side, about career needs. Some are hiring, some are looking – and I have a pretty large network to draw on. I do my best, in an informal way, to see if I can “matchmake” in these situations.

In recent weeks, I’ve had THREE inquiries about needs for Instructional Designers. One in the greater Philly side (provider), one in Virginia (provider), on in the SF Bay area (pharma co).

If you know of anyone looking for new opportunities, let me know and I’ll try to facilitate contact.

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“It’s the Network”

its-network.jpgVerizon has been running a campaign of late depicting a massive crowd of their employees, there to provide service for every customer, under the phrase “It’s the Network” (my favorite is a recent TV spot with a loner biker pulling away from a middle-of-nowhere diner).

It’s not a bad campaign idea, actually – a way to distinguish your company in what is increasingly – at least on the surface – a commodity market (phones and phone/date service).

Then today I realized…they’re actually expressing one of the main “selling points” of my consulting business. When you talk over your training needs with me, you’re not just tapping into my expertise – you’re tapping into the vast and growing network of providers, consultants, and industry practitioners that I’ve built, and continue to build. Since vendors typically have their own narrower frame of reference, and folks in other companies may be limited in the extent of their experience (and perhaps a bit limited in what they can reveal to “outsiders”), that makes it hard to find a breadth of expertise for a training challenge.

That’s why there’s Impactiviti. Expertise…and, of course, the network!

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On a serious note, a young Eli Lilly pharmaceutical sales rep (Nailah Franklin) has gone missing in the Chicago area. Picture and details here. (from PharmaGossip blog)

UPDATE, 9/27 – it appears that they have found her body this morning. Very sad.

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Our medical system needs more creativity. I like what this young doctor is trying out as a new approach. Read the article AND the growing set of comments below it…

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