What is a “successful commercialization” pharma exec look like?

peak_17538098_ver1.0_640_480KEY TAKEAWAY: For those of us who have worked in pharma for many years the term “successful commercialization pharma executive” means one thing; increased sales of a prescription drug.  While that is the objective of any prescription drug the means to successful commercialization say a lot about the trouble within our industry.

To make a drug successful, we would like to believe that it starts with communicating the benefits to patients and HCP’s but that’s not always the case.  When an executive is promoted in an industry magazine as saying that “he will increase sales to $80 to $90 million in one year and at least double that sum in 2016 and well beyond in 2017” we need to ask hard questions.  Most of us understand that such a claim is based on two factors; a substantial price increase on current molecules and the transformation to a “sales driven” organization where getting the sales is more important than patients.

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The consulting company I work with is made up of several ex-senior level pharma executives.  I posed the question to them about commercialization and they said that it meant “achieving sales goals”, usually at any cost.  As one ex-VP told me “the pressure to achieve sales targets are immense and constant”.  He went on to say “a lot of time we just don’t have the luxury of waiting for marketing to drive sales, the sales force has to make it happen and that’s when bad decisions are made”.

Ed Silverman of STAT said “President Obama wrote an essay to defend the Affordable Care Act, Obama chastised drug makers for their stance on pharmaceutical pricing and challenged the companies to renew their commitment to improving public health.”  Bingo!  There once was a belief that if we developed good drugs that profits would follow, but that has been replaced with double digit price increases, an emphasis on sale over good, common sense business practices and pharma executive insiders who move around from company to company under the guise of being a “successful commercialization” executive.

I have seen first hand some pharma executives say things like “it’s only illegal if you get caught” and “let’s not run this through legal” to launch sales driven programs.  More and more industry executives are focused on one thins and one thing only: sales.

The other issue is that too many people within our industry experience illegal or morally questionable tactics, but refuse to speak up because they need their jobs.  The people who have raised their hand, often end their careers within the organization while too many others are just not willing to jeopardize their high paychecks.  It starts and ends with the CEO.  If he is only interested in Wall Street, then sales will rule, at any cost.  It also has a lot to do with recycled pharma executives who move from company to company with the promise to increase sales, usually while management looks the other way.

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Right now pharma deserves every bit of criticism it gets because they just don’t understand the changes coming to healthcare and it’s a race to get price increases before insurers and the government install more controls.  Some executives do get it, but there are just too many recycled pharma exec’s being appointed as senior executives whose only promise is to the stockholders and the balance sheet.