Where are the people who are going to save pharma?

  • The pharma industry continues to be the target of politicians and the media.
  • Pharma’s CEO’s primary customer is Wall Street, not patients.
  • Trade magazines are not discussing the key challenges facing our industry, rather they cater to pharma with awards that that wind up being just a bullet point on resumes.
  • Before the industry can change they need to hire more “pirates” and break the pharma ecosystem that recycles people from one company to another.

I got a lot of comments, yesterday, on my post about phony awards.  I understand that, but over the last 4-5 months I have been listening to people, in research, talk about their frustration of becoming empowered patients.  Particularly numbing is the repeated finding that the vast majority of pharma websites provide little utility when it comes to helping them really understand treatment options.

What I didn’t expect was the frustration some people had in paying for their medications, even when they had health insurance.  One woman did praise Biogen for their co-pay assistance, but said that it took over two weeks of coordinating calls between Biogen, her insurer and her doctor.  Another said that between the higher gas prices, insurance premiums that she was actually taking home less money each month.

How can you not have a deep sense of empathy when you listen to these people?  Yet trade magazines respond with pharma praise and awards and really don’t tackle the tough issues that our industry faces.  They, too, are part of the pharma ecosystem scratching each others back.  STAT news is the only trade publication that, I feel, tells it like it is.

Outdated Hiring Practices

Jennifer (not her real name) was let go from Biogen last year as they downsized.  I worked with her in the past and consider her a very talented marketer.  As she looked for work she found that getting hired within the pharma ecosystem was like trying to find information on a government website.

“First, there were the screening calls, then the interviews, then more interviews, all which took weeks sometimes a month!” she told me.  When she told potential employers that she had been laid off, she noticed that actually hurt her.  “When I told them I was laid off as part of a downsizing, they acted like I had a contagious disease” she continued.  She finally had enough and is now a Director of a health insurance startup in Cambridge.  I wonder how many people have similar experiences?

[pullquote]“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Steve Jobs[/pullquote]

Pharma needs more pirates and less phony awards.  A pirate can function without a bureaucracy. Pirates support one another and support their leader in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and on task in a difficult or hostile environment. A pirate can act independently and take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision and the needs of the greater team.

Pirates are more likely to embrace change and challenge convention. “Being aggressive, egocentric, or antisocial makes it easier to ponder ideas in solitude or challenge convention,” says Dean Keith Simonton, a University of California psychology professor and an expert on creativity. “[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Meanwhile, resistance to change or a willingness to give up easily, can derail new initiatives.[/inlinetweet]” So Steve’s message was: if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join big pharma.[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] If you’re bright and think differently and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.[/inlinetweet]

Steve looked for the pirate in all his team members. But it wasn’t enough just to be brilliant, and it wasn’t enough just to think different. Steve’s pirates had to have the passion, the drive, and the shared vision to want to delight the customer with a perfect, game-changing product.  The Pharma Voice 100 is filled with ecosystem people, not pirates and thus the problem.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]You can go to work with a magazine award feeling better or you can be a pirate in an industry that run like the Royal Navy.  It’s up to you.[/inlinetweet]

I love this industry too much to stay silent and will continue to speak up when I feel it’s necessary.