Big, bureaucratic pharma

SUMMARY: Big pharma is still using outdated bureaucratic processes for everything from hiring to implementing marketing tactics to the point the industry is becoming more bloated. Unless employees challenge the status quo, DTC marketing will continue down a path to irrelevance.

How long does it take to hire a new pharma employee? Would you believe the answer is between 4.5 and 6 weeks? That’s ridiculous, but big pharma companies have many people who love to build empires, and they have to ensure they’re not hiring someone who asks, “why?”.

I’m not suggesting that they hire someone who wears jeans and tee-shirts and questions everything. Still, obviously, there is a need for people who can add value by aligning processes that resemble the need of a public lost in a world of online health information.

Recently a business contact of mine left Microsoft, where she worked on their Health Vault, which has since been canceled. She is an amazingly smart person who gets online behavior. She applied for a job at one of the big five for a Director of Digital Marketing. That was five weeks ago. After going through several video interviews, she still hasn’t heard anything but has decided to take another position with This is unacceptable.

When pharma realizes that retaining and hiring people because of their smarts is more important than hiring someone who is “going to play nice.” they will better succeed. A good hire is someone who knows that the industry has to change and has the management experience to get it done versus someone who will “just do the job.”

When it comes to DTC marketing, the industry needs people who can think strategically but act tactically. If, for example, the buzz on social media is about a side effect of your drug, you should act quickly with the facts that address online health seeker needs.

Those of us who have experience working in pharma also know that the higher you move up the corporate ladder, the further the distance from the patients we serve. Senior managers spend too much time managing the company way, allowing little time to talk about patients and their needs.

A forward-thinking CEO would have used this time to implement changes within the organization but the same old thinking means their concern involves Wall Street and stock prices. Really sad..