Lessons from a pharma consultant

QUICK READ: Learning is part of any job and it never stops. As I look back I would have thought the industry would have changed a lot by now but the changes I’m seeing are very slow and measured.

Almost twelve years ago I started my own consulting business after being fed up with the bureaucracy of big companies. Over this time I have worked with many big and small pharma and biotech companies. Here is some of what I have learned:

1ne: There continues to be an exodus of talent from the industry. Many are leaving on their own because they have had enough of processes that are outdated.

2wo: Too many people, from the salesforce, are being put into marketing positions, and thus they are focusing strictly on ROI, not patient’s needs.

3hree: The people in manager’s positions and below are fighting battles with executives to try new things to reach patients. However, the time it takes to get approvals is draining morale.

4our: Online analytics continues to be a challenge for DTC marketers. They are using metrics that aren’t important anymore and senior executives don’t challenge metrics like total website visitors.

5ive: Agencies that support pharma have gotten bigger but not necessarily better. I am often asked to review proposals from agencies and I’m really surprised at their recommendations without really understanding the audience.

6ix: Pharma still hasn’t learned to move from an awareness business objective to a model that takes patients through getting an Rx. It varies by health condition and requires a lot of experimenting.

7even: The people I work with on a daily basis understand the importance of helping patients but constantly face questions about implementing programs designed to do that.

8ight: Pharma trade magazines, for the most part, are worthless. They bite the PR aspect of the industry and the numbers they often report are often way off. The exception to this is STAT news which is excellent.

9ine: Blaming all of pharma because of the actions of a few is discouraging but it is what it is. The media loves to glorify stories with headlines and people then apply their anger at all of pharma.

10en: Too many pharma recruiters use LinkedIn as a billboard to post open positions. If they want great people they need to seek them out online rather than throw out some candy to see who wants some.

It’s been hard work but I love the industry. I haven’t had one flint say they were unhappy with my work and we all stay in touch although I have to abide with confidentiality agreements.

When a talented person leaves the industry it hurts because I know they can’t easily be replaced. In my work I’ve earned enough frequent flyer miles to fly to moon, round-trip, but, I’ve had enough of flying for now.

Those who love the industry are the ones speaking out. Those who just care about their personal brand are moving from company to company and conning a lot of people.