Archive for April, 2009

Ortho-McNeil launches Facebook page for adult ADHD sufferers.

Lilly and Amylin teaming up to produce once-a-week diabetes pen.

Good stuff on Merck KGaA‘s oral MS drug. That company and Novartis both bringing groundbreaking new ones to market.

LATE BREAKING – big cuts at Seattle’s ZymoGenetics.

And, hey, why not a bit of speculation to spice up the day? Should Sanofi buy Biogen?

Finally, a bit of Training Fresh Air. I really like this approach by Daiichi-Sankyo.


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woodyallenThere are reasons why people don’t think highly of pharmaceutical companies. One of them is the misguided race to promote “female sexual dysfunction”, and to find a “cure.”

While there may indeed be biological reasons for certain sexual difficulties in women, the notion that some pill is going to fan the flames of desire and be an “orgasmatic” really minimizes what sexuality is all about.

Viagra does indeed address one physical component of sexual difficulty for men – the erection. But it is not an orgasm-producer or desire-creator, and no analogue has been found for women yet. There is no such panacea pill, because genuine sexual fulfillment is primarily about a healthy relationship, good communication, and pretty basic technique. The first two, in particular, are much more challenging to achieve and maintain, and cannot by any stretch of imagination be replaced by a capsule or a spray.

Passion ebbs and flows. Our bodies change as we age. Is there some biological/biochemical/hormonal aspect to sexual function? Sure. Hormonal tweaking may help somewhat (or may only mask a few symptoms of deeper causes), but can lead to other medical issues down the road.

But I’d be willing to bet that in most cases, “sexual dysfunction” is more a problem of heart disease – the kind that is not cured by pharmaceuticals.  You can’t bottle respect, kindness, and love. I’m a guy, yet I’d boldly venture to guess that a lot of what is called “female sexual dysfunction” is really another term for “relational disruption” and/or “male inconsideration”! The complex emotional, psychological, and physiological response of a woman cannot be reduced so easily. The easy fix is to blame a syndrome and pop a pill. But that’s a fool’s dream.

Lest anyone be tempted to accuse me of misogyny, I’m all for medical cures for physiological problems, including anything that can help with biochemically-influenced sexual difficulties. But I’m not in favor of disease-mongering, or pipe-dream fixes for complex issues. Neither Viagra nor any other pharmaceutical can “fix” sexual desire or the Big “O”. But the pursuit of it can sure produce the Big $$.

That’s why I think it’s a mistake for pharmas to try to create this syndrome/market/cure. This problem needs to be addressed mainly on other levels. And pharma needs to address pressing medical concerns that can be fixed by…medicine.

[Over-simplified guy perspective? Probably. For a fuller discussion from the female perspective, I recommend a look at Liz Scherer’s FlashFree blog]

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I like this approach, taken by Daiichi-Sankyo. A lot. – Designed to improve a reps’ knowledge and understanding of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease, ASH’s Hypertension Accreditation Program will train more than 700 Daiichi sales team members in the first year of the program…To achieve accreditation, sales reps will undergo rigorous training (approximately 10 hours of home study prior to the live course, 13 hours of intense classroom training over two days, and six hours of homework) that concludes with a one-hour written exam administered by ASH…In 2008, a “Hot Spot” survey conducted by the online physician community Sermo revealed that physicians prefer to interact with more highly-trained reps who are better educated and prepared to engage in higher-level discussion about relevant diseases and available treatments.

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“Physicians and medical institutions should shun gifts, reps, samples and ghostwriting, said the Institute of Medicine‘s conflict of interest committee in its full recommendations.” More…

Who needs reps? Doctors comfortable with ePromotion. Hmmm..

Sanofi bags some experimental drugs in the pipeline. Formerly in the pipeline.

Novartis gets ongoing encouraging results for experimental MS oral drug.

Pfizer to former biotech chief: Here’s a bundle. Now shut up!

PLUS: Swine flu, Asian flu, Avian flu, Flu Flu, Flu, Flu…it’s all getting a bit much. Here’s a very brief historical perspective.


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After Hours 042709

The moon, in stunning detail. Plenty awesome.

Keeping up with the space theme, some fabulous close-ups of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft.

A great variety of pics from Earth day, biggie-size.

Awesome, “flowing” shots of slot canyons.

PLUS: Two of the favorite items ever on Amazon (here and here). You have to read the customer reviews. You’ll be rolling on the floor… (OK, make it three – here’s another)

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The days of sending out armies of sales reps equipped with product knowledge and selling skills are over.

In the new environment, healthcare professionals will (rightly) expect representatives from drug companies to provide much greater value on the business level.

Some of Impactiviti’s preferred partners specialize in training offerings to help create more business-savvy and valuable field employees. The business of healthcare is changing and becoming more complex. The ability to think strategically and broadly will continue to grow.

If this type of offering is what you’re looking for, contact Steve Woodruff at Impactiviti. We’ll introduce you to an optimal vendor/partner with a track record of success.

(And, if you’re in need of any aspect of sales force or management training, we can identify optimal partners for you!)


Impactiviti is a consultancy focused on helping companies identify optimal partners for training/marketing needs. This vendor/client “matchmaking” service is provided free of charge to client companies (preferred partners pay a referral fee when a new business relationship is established).

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southI’m a native Northeast guy, but I spent 7 years in the South (Tennessee). I enjoy visiting there when I can. But there’s one time when you really don’t want to head in that direction, and that’s when the training project you’re working on with a vendor goes south!

It happens. More often than anyone likes to talk about (hey, it’s embarrassing for both client and vendor, you know?). Not only in pharmaceutical training, but in other industries, stuff goes wrong and reputations get hurt.

There are three main reasons why project failure happens:

  1. Poor choice of a vendor/provider, dooming the project from the get-go;
  2. Inadequate definition of the project itself;
  3. Lack of sound and agreed-upon project management processes.

It grieves me to see the money, time, and good-will squandered because some fairly straightforward practices are not employed.

You don’t have to settle for these failures, however. At the upcoming Society of Biotech and Trainers Conference (SPBT), I’ll be co-facilitating a workshop on project management (Hey – I Didn’t Sign up to Manage Projects!). This session will take place on Wednesday morning at 9:15 am (Session 3). My co-leader Bob Holliday from Boehringer-Ingelheim and I will try to equip you and your colleagues on the basics of good vendor selection, project definition, and project management. Variations of this workshop have been delivered in a number of client departments over the past year and the content is always very relevant and practical.

Don’t let your projects turn to the downward side of the compass! Come and learn the foundational principles and best practices that lead to success.

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FDA extends review of AstraZeneca/BMS experimental diabetes drug Onglyza.

Teva blocked from launching generic form of Lilly‘s Evista; also rumored to be eyeballing a purchase of Watson.

Roche/Genentech‘s Avastin misses the mark in colon cancer study.

PLUS – you want pharma growth? Sanofi says, Go East! (I know another big pharma also ramping up very rapidly in China…)


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Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the first (I suspect there will be more!) one-day Social Pharmer un-conference, held in Cambridge, MA, in conjunction with Health Camp Boston.

I’m sure that others will focus on the content, and much of the material can be digested in tidbit size through Twitter tweets under the hashtag #SocPharm. So, with this post, I’ll scratch out a few thoughts on other themes beside recaps of the sessions.

First of all, I have to commend my friend and fellow Pharma networker Shwen Gwee (Vertex Pharmaceuticals) for the terrific job he did organizing the conference. Everything ran very smoothly, both pre-event and during the day. With the able assistance of Jack Barrette (WEGO Health), who served as emcee, the entire event stayed right on schedule.

Kudos also to Microsoft, who opened up their just-completed conference center in their R&D building in Cambridge for the event. The venue was attractive, airy, and very well-suited for informal breakouts and networking.

There were about 40-50 people in the Social Pharmer track, and the engagement level was quite high. It was quite a mix of folks – marketers, healthcare folks, pharma people, consultants, vendors, students, and others. This was not a group content to just listen to “same old, same old” moaning about barriers to Pharma eMarketing – the general vibe was a restlessness to figure out concrete steps to move the industry forward, including building a more focused and purposeful network of stakeholders who can begin assembling resources and ideas. Stay tuned, and if you want to be part of the process, visit www.socialpharmer.com and join the network.

This was an “un-conference” format, which generally aims at far greater audience involvement (including on-the-fly adaptation of the agenda), and a less formal style of presentation. That’s not familiar ground to pharma folks – tech/social media people are now used to it, but we’ve got a ways to go to see folks steeped in pharmaworld adapt to a more spontaneous and unstructured format. But we took a step in the right direction, and just as we say of the use of social networking in this industry, you embrace the step-at-a-time approach and keep moving forward.

One main theme – as always – was the frustration with FDA about its policy of not providing pro-active guidance about the use of social networking. Some interesting pros and cons were discussed about that approach, and about the potential of generating “reasonable practices” (my term) through the efforts of various stakeholders to try to address the vacuum.

I’m sensing change in the air. There has been a quiet flood of pharma-connected people into Twitter of late (not due to Oprah!), and there is a restlessness with the baby steps that companies have taken thus far. The major challenge will be to harness and channel this creative energy into productive efforts – developing sound and sensible frameworks for new initiatives, outlining strategic roadmaps, and avoiding the regulatory backlash that would inevitably result from short-sighted abuse of social networking by misguided marketers.

We have a chance to do this right. Social networking, rightly utilized, can help pharma recover its declining reputation by providing an avenue for doing good and adding value. If you just want to “use” social media to grab a few short-term tenths of market share, please put on the brakes – now. First, take the time to get involved in social networks, and understand how people want to interact with you in the on-line space. Because people (not “target demographics” – people) really do want the industry to be involved, in ways that fit with the community’s expectations; not as a purveyor of Rx-seeking missles.  We need to move forward purposefully, strategically – but with the long-term good of all in mind.

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On April 21 at 1:00 pm EST, I’ll be leading a discussion about where pharma companies can begin using social networking approaches NOW for clear business applications. And this blog post is appearing at about that time for those who cannot be in Boston for the event, but who’d like to participate via Twitter.

This discussion will grow off a solitary slide (below):


Given two main “buckets” of focus – either marketing applications, or corporate communications – what are the best starting points (the low-hanging fruit) for pharma companies? Which activities, and which platforms, can best be used for which audiences as the social media adventure begins?

Feel free to join the discussion via Twitter – share YOUR thoughts using the #SocPharm hashtag. The slide above will probably morph during the session, as it should – it’s meant to be a springboard.

UPDATE: should have thought to put “Wiki” under applications – great for internal comms/collaboration (see Pfizerpedia).

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