Pharma marketing excellence starts with people

integrityThe search for marketing excellence is a quest that many organizations strive for.  Yet before you look at processes and organizational structures you first have to look at your people for two important qualities: integrity and empathy.

How many people would leave your company if they were offered a raise in compensation of 10 or 25%?  If you don’t know the answer, then you’re in trouble.

Employees who feel like they are contributing and are engaged are less likely to leave your company and more likely to provide marketing excellence.


There are two examples of pharma organizations in trouble that could be case studies on what not to do….

The first is that Boehringer Ingelheim didn’t disclose a data analysis to U.S. regulators that indicated the blood-thinner Pradaxa may have caused more fatal bleeding after it was cleared for sale than the drug did in a study used to win approval.

This comes to light as part of a lawsuit against Boehringer on Pradaxa.  Now if you’re on the jury who are you going to vote for especially after Harlan Krumholz, a Yale University cardiologist said  “Having run an analysis in several ways, there is no good reason not to disclose all the results”?


Patients and their families contend in lawsuits that Boehringer executives knew Pradaxa posed a deadly risk to consumers when it won FDA approval in October 2010. More than 1,400 patients bled to death while taking the drug through Oct. 2, Clemens said in a deposition unsealed Feb. 19 as part of suits over the drug.

 The second case of questionable behavior comes from Galena Biopharma.   Galena is a small company in Oregon with a few assets, including a cancer vaccine candidate. Its stock hovers in the low single digits, as is appropriate. But in December and January, it began to trade up, and up. From $2/share to $4. Then to $6, and then higher.  And this on no particular news or change in the company’s prospects, which for a stock like this is often a sign of “momentum” players getting involved.


The stock had been rising because the company was paying a PR firm to beat the drums for it and that drum-beating wasgoing as far as having people post multiple supposedly-independent articles on sites like Seeking Alpha under a list of pseudonyms.

An outfit called the “DreamTeam Group” was hired for the promotion. They run a stable of stock-touting web sites, full of wonderful tales about the companies that are paying them to say these wonderful things. And they spread the word on other sites (as above), and on Twitter, by e-mail and whatever means come to hand.

GALE peaked at nearly $8/share, but its directors and officers were unloading millions of dollars worth of shares into that market.  I ask you “were their company executives acting with integrity” or were they looking out for themselves?

I know that these are only two examples out of many companies out there, but can pharma really continue to take some many darts?


The problem, I believe, is not that there aren’t good people with empathy and integrity who work in pharma, it’s that too often their voices are not being heard.

In addition health care providers have a unique opportunity to improve patient health outcomes by practicing empathy for their patients and complex life circumstances. Empathy is defined as, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” and studies have shown that empathy is an important skill for health care providers and is significantly associated with improved clinical outcomes.

It all starts with people and I would argue that HR people need to better schooled in hiring people with integrity and empathy rather than people who would “just fit in”.





2 thoughts on “Pharma marketing excellence starts with people

  1. Good article. I agree with you.
    I would extend the thought by saying that many companies are too conservative and they hire people (in my opinion especially marketing people) who function safely in the middle of the decision box and avoid the edges of the box., which is where all the good marketingactivities happen.IMO.

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