From the Mouths of Babes - Pharmaceutical Executive

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From the Mouths of Babes
What big pharma companies can learn from the evolution of the infant formula business


Pharmaceutical Executive


It would be easy to dismiss the idea that what has evolved in the infant formula business as a result of WIC will happen to pharma as the Medicare drug benefit is implemented. There are many differences between a medically promoted consumer product and prescription pharmaceuticals. It is also easy to believe that pharma company executives are better prepared to deal with bidding and contracting for Medicare enrollees, based on their experiences with managed care and pharmacy benefit management companies.

However, dismissal of the infant formula industry's history as prologue is not that easy. Ross, Mead Johnson, and Wyeth were much smaller, less global, and more cost conscious than today's pharma companies. Their managers largely came from the pharma industry, and they ultimately reported to strong and competent pharma CEOs. These managers simply had never seen anything like the WIC program, nor did they know how best to respond to it.

Today's pharma executives can look to the infant formula experience, anticipate many of the responses by managed care, state governments, and competitor companies, and, by applying these lessons, avoid many of the pitfalls associated with such a fundamental change.


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