Archive for November, 2008

After Hours

Two words: Stephen Colbert. Absolutely hysterical, on new drug treatments.

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A Tale of Two Shoes

I have wide feet. Not a big problem (I guess my balance is pretty good) – except when I have to buy shoes. Since I need to find shoes that are WWW, when I find something that fits, I’ll often buy two sets with different colors (say, black and cordovan) because it ain’t easy to find something comfortable.

This week, I had an early morning flight to Chicago. I’d packed up the night before, but floundered around a bit getting dressed in the early morning darkness, as my wife and I had just switched closets. I put on my comfortable work/travel loafers and headed out to Newark airport in plenty of time for my flight.

2shoes-smDoing the standard routine of piling all my stuff on the conveyor belt for passenger screening, I popped off my shoes to put in the plastic bin, and suddenly noticed, with bemused horror, that one shoe was black, and the other cordovan! They were a matched set all right, in style and fit – there was even a right and a left version. They just happened to be…umm, mismatched!

My first instinct was to look around in profound embarrassment at being such a bozo as to wear mismatched shoes. Then I realized that what I had done was a perfect illustration of what my work is all about helping clients with vendor selection. When you’re trying to find a match “in the dark,” there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up with…well, something like what you see above! My role, in helping you find a vendor match, is to save you the lost time and (potentially) lost professional reputation by recommending a vendor that is the right size, fit, and style for you.

I was tempted to go in to see my client wearing these shoes as an example. But, professional propriety forced me stop off and do what many of you have had to do in the past – spend extra time and money making up for a mistake when selecting something without enough light. So, now I have a new pair of casual loafers that are pretty nice (but I don’t really need) and I get to drink my own Kool-Aid next time and make sure that I have the right “match” before starting out!

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In my consulting work with pharmaceutical sales training departments, I have the privilege of working with many quality companies (and quality individuals) – and my goal is to help them succeed.

However, I see a serious “structural deficiency” in many groups that almost guarantees waste, inefficiency, and higher probabilities of failure. Some departments have put the right people in place to make the cogs turn much more smoothly, and others can learn from these examples. I’ll describe a structure I strongly recommend.

For many sales training departments, training managers are coming through on a rotational basis. That is, this is a stop along the way to higher sales/management positions. Yet, these folks are expected to function as quasi- project managers, vendor managers, and instructional designers – that is, they are given operational responsibilities for which they are rarely trained and equipped. “Here’s the deep end of the pool!” <push>

One of the less-publicized but sad truths that grow out of this is that many vendors take full advantage of this situation by over-pricing and under-delivering, based on the inexperience of those who are making project decisions. Also, many training projects are developed and deployed outside of an overall training blueprint because no-one is minding the “big-picture” store on the technology, instructional, and strategic fronts.

So, departments end up with a patchwork quilt of training programs that sometimes have very little coherence. Sound familiar?

Once a company/department reaches a certain size, it makes sense to have head count that is more or less permanent – these are not rotational positions, probably not occupied by people with a sales background or career track (different skill sets), and these individuals are charged with the operational roles of saving a bunch of money and inefficiency by bring discipline and design to the training development process.

In short, there are at least three roles (in a larger department, these may be three groups) that need to evolve in order to get the training house in order:

1. A Manager of Instructional Design – this person is charged with ensuring that training programs are put together to fit into an overall strategic blueprint, and he/she interacts closely with all vendors and other developers to ensure program quality.

2. An overall Project Manager – this individual is responsible for helping to craft RFPs, is the leader in all vendor interactions and negotiations, and maintains the fiscal and operational discipline as projects move forward. In larger departments, there will be multiple PMs.

3. A Manager of Instructional Technology – this specialized role focuses on the deployment and use of systems such as LMSs, webcasting, on-line assessments, DVDs, etc. He/she interfaces closely with Training Managers, Instructional Design folks, and IT stakeholders.

Each of these roles involves specialized skills and a different mentality than that possessed by most typical salespeople. And the depth and intricacy of each of these responsibilities demands a long-term commitment – someone in the department for 18-30 months cannot possibly master these roles.

When the right people and structure is in place, these roles more than pay for themselves – hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved annually by putting systematic design and development discipline in place. And in the end, you’ll improve vendor relationships as well (though they won’t be able to take as much financial advantage of you!) because each project will have a far better chance to succeed.

As I’ve said ad nauseum to my kids, “You can do it right – or you can do it twice!” No-one wants to throw away or re-do a costly project. Having the right people on board will help you do it right – the first time.

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J&J gets flamed over the weekend with a social media firestorm over a Motrin ad. Here’s the backstory, with more here. Frankly, I think this constitutes an over-reaction, and may discourage other healthcare companies from putting their toe in the social media water. On the positive side, it certainly demonstrates the enormous potential and viral nature of social media (for good or for ill!)

Centocor launches interactive website for patient-doctor interactions about Remicade.

Will the drug business lose the right to advertise?

InVentiv Communications agencies score big at annual MM&M awards.

Nielsen white paper on how pharma can use social media (free download).

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Roche‘s MabThera can help extend CLL patients’ lives. Meanwhile, surprisingly good results for AZ‘s lung cancer drug Iressa. But, disappointment for an experimental lung cancer drug being developed by Amgen and Takeda. And, Novartis‘ promising kidney cancer drug Afinitor gets the FDA delay treatment (fuller Novartis pipeline update here).

Glaxo gets U.S. approval for platelet drug Promacta.

Biotech bankruptcies looming?

AstraZenecacutting, selling, stopping.

More positive info for Takeda‘s experimental gout drug.

Can Pharma learn from the Detroit automaker situation? Some good thoughts here.

Generic coming? Let’s hike the price! – Cephalon has already taken heat for off-label promotion of its narcolepsy drug Provigil. Now, facing the prospect of generic competition to Provigil in 2012, the company is dramatically hiking Provigil’s price…more

Javelin tosses 15% – Javelin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leading developer of novel products for pain management, today announced that it will reduce its workforce by approximately 15 percent. The reduction is intended to reduce Javelins cost structure…more

Cancer drugs for diabetes? The mice say maybe… – Two popular leukemia drugs, Gleevec and Sutent, kept lab mice from developing type 1 diabetes and put 80 percent of diabetic mice in remission, an international team said on Monday…more

J&J patch leads to costly settlement.

Merck’s Gardasil promising in boys – Scientists are reporting at a scientific meeting in Nice, France, today that 90% fewer men ages 16 to 26 years developed genital warts and other lesions after receiving Gardasil…more

Pfizer: big bucks toward stem cells – Over the next five years, the drugmaker will create dual facilities in the UK and Massachusetts to use stem cells to treat heart disease, diabetes, cancer and vision loss common among the elderly. In doing so, Pfizer is touting that it becomes the first big pharma to have such a dedicated effort, which will include hiring 70 scientists to staff the labs…more

Beauty fillers, ugly side effects? – An ugly side of the beauty business emerged today, as an FDA briefing listed 930 reports of side effects for injectable wrinkle fillers such as Restylane and Juvederm…more

King’s new pain pill might make the grade – An FDA advisory committee determined that Remoxy is less susceptible to abuse than the notorious OxyContin, suggesting the pill will win FDA approval, Bloomberg News reports, although the committee did not take a formal vote…more

FDA to require meta-analyses of diabetes drugs.

More questions about Effient? – Researchers have overestimated the ability to the experimental drug without causing dangerous bleeding, according to a prominent cardiologist, Reuters writes. Prasugrel, you may recall, has twice been delayed by the FDA, which is reportedly set to hold an advisory meeting early next year…more

Major Amylin layoffs – The 25 percent staff reduction, which follows sluggish sales of its flagship Byetta diabetes med, is designed to save more than $100 million next year. After the dust clears, Amylin will have 1,800 employees…more

All right, what’s the big deal with the Crestor/Jupiter/cholesterol study? Some questions answered.

Did you know that the FDA gives drug review vouchers? Neither did I – Two months ago, a new program got under way in the US to promote the development of drugs for so-called neglected diseases that continue to plague the poorest nations. Here is the outline: a drugmaker that seeks approval of a drug to treat one of these infectious diseases gets a voucher, which awards an expedited FDA review of a new drug application for any other med…more

Amgen doing an “Obama” to market new drug? – Taking a leaf out of the marketing playbook of President-elect Barack Obama, biotechnology company Amgen Inc plans to make use of the Internet and social networking sites to market its drugs to consumers…more, plus another take here.

Merck: we still have heart – Merck wants the world to know that when it comes to developing new drugs for cardiovascular disease, the company is in the fight for the long haul…more

The cost of rep sales calls. Have a calculator handy. From John Mack’s Pharma Marketing blog.

I have some real problems with this. Brand-name drug manufacturers liable for generic injuries – A ruling on Friday by a California appeals court is likely to spark a good many lawsuits against big pharma. The upshot – brand-name drugmakers were put on notice that they can be held liable not only for harm caused by their own meds, but also for injuries caused by a generic drugmaker selling a copycat version…more

More doctors quitting.

This is really funny. From the Colbert Report, via PharmaGossip.

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After Hours

Wow. Best image of a solar eclipse ever.

This picture cannot be explained. Really.

Lawyers run amuk on a pharma pill disclaimer.

The eyes have it. Scroll left-to-right. Amazing.

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The last 2 weeks have been amazingly busy with recommendation requests. Clients have asked me to identify and recommend suppliers for the following needs:

  • Product eLearning systems
  • Live Preceptorship programs
  • International Compliance
  • Leadership Development
  • Account Manager training (long-term care)
  • Cultural Sensitivity Training
  • Multicultural Selling
  • Marketing Training
  • Interactive workshop games

I love my work! Recommending my long-term partners who can take care of these needs, and identifying new resources for niche projects, is amazingly rewarding – made even more so by working with my “inner circle” of partners and clients who share their experiences and knowledge about potential resources.

If you have needs in any other the categories above – or any other areas – just contact us here at Impactiviti (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or 973-947-7429) and we’ll help you find the partner(s) you’re looking for.

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Growing number of consumers are rating Rx drugs on-line – Over 60 million adults in the US are using social media applications for healthcare online, and many are speaking directly about products, according to a new Manhattan Research report…more Social media is happening to pharma, folks – but it’s from the outside, not the inside. It will be increasingly difficult to “control” the messaging, in my opinion, as people draw from a variety of sources (professional and amateur) for their drug information.-SW

BMS and Novartis provide unrestricted grants for social media initiatives – full story here This is great news, and I think the most effective way pharma companies can start dabbling in social media, and do genuine good. Keep an eye on this trend. -SW

Shwen Gwee has an on-line SlideShare on his recent presentation, “Can Pharma make a Business Case for Social Media?” Shwen’s a smart cookie. Keep a close eye on him if you’re interesting in social media and pharma.

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Glaxo: more big cuts, and the U.S. HQ needle pointing south – GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it will reduce its sales personnel by 12% to 7,500 down from 8,500. The company will slash 1,800 jobs resulting in a total of 1,000 layoffs. Some positions have already been eliminated while other personnel will be reassigned to new areas. The company is also consolidating operations and moving personnel from its Philadelphia facility to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where it employs about 5,000 people…more

Gilead gets a boost from new HIV treatment guidelines – The DHHS named Gilead’s Truvada, a combination of the company’s HIV treatments Emtriva and Viread, the lone preferred regimen for previously untreated HIV patients. Gilead’s shares added 3.2% to $47.31 in regular trading…more

Genzyme pours serious cash into Osiris – Genzyme Corp. will pay Osiris Therapeutics Inc. as much as $1.38 billion to develop therapies that use stem cells to treat blood cancers, inflammation and joint damage. ..more

Amylin’s Byetta LAR gets extended delay for extended release – Shares of Amylin Pharmaceuticals have collapsed after it emerged that US regulators have rejected data for a once-weekly version of its diabetes drug Byetta…more

UCB gets OAB drug approval – UCB announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the anti-muscarinic agent Toviaz® (fesoterodine fumarate) extended-release tablets for the treatment of overactive bladder (OAB) with symptoms of urge urinary incontinence, urgency, and urinary frequency…more

What does Jupiter have to do with cholesterol treatments? A lot!

But will Winnie be used to sell obesity treatments? Pooh characters as Seroquel sales aids? Hmmm…

Cephalon’s Treanda gets another indication – on Friday received a second approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its cancer drug Treanda, this time as a treatment for patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL)…more

CV Therapeutics’ Ranexa gets a first-line approval – CV Therapeutics, Inc. announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new, first line indication for Ranexa® (ranolazine extended-release tablets) for the treatment of chronic angina. The new labeling also provides information showing that Ranexa reduced arrhythmias including ventricular arrhythmias, new onset atrial fibrillation and a potentially dangerous slow heartbeat known as bradycardia in patients with coronary artery disease. In addition, the new labeling states that Ranexa reduces hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) in patients with diabetes…more

Promising experimental Hep-C treatment in the Schering pipeline – results being reported.

Obesity drugs: everybody bails out – For those of you hoping that America’s obesity crisis could be solved with a pill, think again. Pfizer announced late Wednesday that it is scrapping its anti-fat drug, the as-yet unnamed “CP-945,598,” for essentially political reasons. Sanofi-Aventis today also announced that it was ending its trials on Acomplia/Zimulti, an obesity pill that was approved and then yanked in Europe. And Merck a couple of weeks ago pulled its fat pill taranabant, from its pipeline…more

Why did J&J consolidate its drug advertising biz between 2 big agency holding companies?

Big Pharma’s loss may be Little Pharma’s gain – as big drugmakers continue to trim jobs, smaller biopharmaceutical makers and specialty pharma are benefiting from the downsizing, according to David Poling, director of state business operations at Aerotek, a staffing firm…more

The 10 weirdest drug stories of the month.

First glimpse of the secrets of the cancer genome. Fascinating.

If you’re not up on the latest pharma/legal issue called pre-emption, you need to be. Go here for the latest.

Want even more news? Chris Truelove over at Pharmalive has a big roundup this week – lots of interesting tidbits and links..

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