Mission Critical: Assessing Pharma's Drivers of Change

Apr 24, 2014

A critical function of Pharm Exec's Editorial Advisory Board [EAB] is to provide us with a perspective on what really counts in the business of big Pharma today—at the front lines of the competitive war for market share, how do you differentiate, align strategy with capabilities, motivate winning teams, and deploy resources efficiently, all toward the ultimate objective of building sustainable sources of growth, for the long-term? To help answer this question, Pharm Exec convened on Jan. 30 a panel of four alumni from our EAB meeting host, St Joseph's University Business School Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing Program, each representing the commercial operations side of the business, from drugs to consumer products to vaccines. The following contains highlights from the discussion, including input from other members of our EAB community. The big lowdown? Marketing today is so competitive, management only gets one shot to get it right—and if you are not listening to the patient first, you fail.

— William Looney, Editor-in-Chief

PE: Each of you has moved up the ranks on the commercial side of biopharmaceuticals, from serving on the field force to a management assignment with direct P&L responsibility. How has your work and the requirements for success changed over the course of your career? What are the key drivers of competitive differentiation today versus when you started in the industry?

List of Participants
Joe Truitt, Achillion Pharmaceuticals: I began my career in 1989, as a sales representative. At that time, the selling proposition in pharmaceuticals was relatively simple. Prescribing decisions were made at the physician level. Now the market has evolved into a much more complex environment, with many more stakeholders involved in the process. Prescribing decisions are impacted by payers, governments, physicians, specialty pharmacies, PBMs, and patients. Each of these segments requires a targeted commercial plan in order to succeed.

PE: Isn't it all still a question of how much scrip you can get physicians to write for the product? Has the situation really changed that significantly?

Truitt: Due to the complexities of access and reimbursement, physicians are no longer the only decision makers in prescribing. We have to understand the road map to access and reimbursement very early in the development of a compound to ensure the required data is available to support the launching of a new drug. If this planning is not executed during the clinical phase of drug development, there is a risk that physician uptake could be limited due to barriers to access. For example, health technology assessments conducted by governments now play a vital role in shaping everything from the design and location of clinical trials to the final go-to-market launch strategy. Six years ago, there was no IQWiG agency in Germany to influence the decision on a domestic reimbursement price for a new drug, the outcome of which guides actions by payers in many other countries.