James Featherstone, Wood Mackenzie

Nov 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

James Featherstone
THE REAL 'VALUE ADD' a consultant can provide is the ability to independently challenge internal perceptions within the client organization. It is unavoidable that a client's view of the future can become colored with bullish or pessimistic views of the environment, and having an independent, third-party challenge to these perceptions or views is increasingly important. Content-driven strategic consulting houses are well placed to do this. They can provide a positive alternative to process houses that, in some ways, perpetuate internal thinking, which is sometimes misguided, with no objective discussion.

Pharmaceutical industry consultants have to contend with higher barriers to entry than most other industries. This is the need to overcome a question of personal credibility, through either documented qualifications or industry experience.

More general consulting firms offer teams that work cross industry. Barriers are rising as the industry sees the need for consultants who bring more than process to the table and the need for insight and creativity based upon a deep understanding of the sector. Additionally, the pharma industry still has a degree of academic snobbery associated with it that is not always good. You don't see this in many other sectors.


Here are some things pharma companies can do right away to stave off threats:

  • Adopt flexible pricing strategies that benefit truly innovative products that address unmet needs. And accept that premium pricing cannot be applied to products showing marginal advances in efficacy.
  • Develop long-term relationships with the biotechnology industry and academia; don't view them as sectors to feed off. Creation and innovation works better in these environments, and these groups should be invested in as a partnership. In the future, Big Pharma will come to realize that discovery and early-stage clinical development is not where it should be for cultural and organizational reasons.
  • Opt for more transparency within the clinical development phase and a closer relationship with regulators, which will go a long way to rebuild confidence and ease the industry's tarnished image when it comes to drug safety.


The industry needs to start making more decisions based on input from multiple stakeholders—particularly regulatory, pricing, and patient groups. At the moment, there is too much reliance on input from KOL consultants and prescribers.

It also needs to revamp its public image by being flexible in pricing (and I mean relating to perceived value at launch versus proven value based on emerging outcomes data) and more transparent in the findings from clinical studies.


Outside of Big Pharma, companies are very often so caught up in the science behind their programs that they forget to articulate clearly the commercial reasons for their activities. This can impact their development in many ways, including raising capital.

There is massive potential outside of the US market—not just in Europe, but also emerging markets—but current business models will not unlock it.


The industry is aware of all potential challenges in the future, but some of the key ones will be:

1) The rise of patient-power and the need to talk to them about their needs and views of current treatments

2) The impact of companies in emerging markets as they transition from copiers to "fast followers" to innovative market leaders

A consultant is not to be seen as a necessary evil. Embrace the relationship in an open and transparent way.


Wood Mackenzie has provided a range of research products and consulting services to the life sciences and energy industries for the last 30 years. With its foundation in quality analysis, detailed industry understanding, and experience, Wood Mackenzie is able to offer clients a skill combination, which they view as unique. Wood Mackenzie's market proposition is based on providing forward-looking commercial insight that enables clients to make better business decisions.

lorem ipsum