Phase Six: Regain Confidence - Pharmaceutical Executive


Phase Six: Regain Confidence
Not since 1997 has the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association given its Woman of the Year distinction to someone from the agency world. A former nurse, researcher and Big Pharma exec, Lynn O'Connor Vos, CEO of Grey Healthcare Group and this year's honoree, is on a mission.

Pharmaceutical Executive

A tall order, but in fact, there are precedents, she says. "In the early days at Pfizer we created something called Interactive Medicine to help doctors communicate with patients. Today at Grey, we're inventing something called 'The Doctor Will Hear You Now,' an attempt to get the doctor and patient on the same page, so doctors will better understand the insights of consumers. We're doing this now in the hormone replacement therapy [HRT] category."

The other essential, says Vos, is full disclosure, which, in her experience, can work wonders for even highly threatened products—if handled with the right kind of craftsmanship.

"In the nineteen-eighties, we represented Tonocard [tonocainide] and the product got a black box," she says. "When you got a black box back then, it was big stuff. The drug was in the antiarrhythmic category, where there were few competitors. Ronnie Hoffman, who came out of direct marketing, sent a beautifully crafted letter informing physicians about the warning—and prescriptions doubled over time." Why? Doctors like full disclosure, Vos says. It gives them a greater comfort level. When they know the whole story, they can prescribe more effectively.

More recently, Vos has been involved in untangling the issues surrounding HRT, which has been under continuous assault for the past four years or so. To fight back, the Grey team helped Wyeth, maker of Premarin, to launch a campaign centered on disclosure. "It's a story that hasn't been told broadly enough, what a great job Wyeth has done with that brand," says Vos. "They repositioned with honest, full disclosure. They say the product is now for short-term use; to take as little as possible for as little time as possible. And doctors didn't want to get that conservative. They really were much more pro-HRT than anyone out there. Now you're seeing the category return."

"Volunteer Work Is the Rent We Pay" Talk to people who work with Vos, and inevitably they'll bring up her commitment to volunteer and pro bono work, which she has made part of the company culture. GHG offers pro bono services to numerous clients, including the Helen Keller Foundation (a relationship that's continued for 15 years), the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), and the Jed Foundation, which works to reduce the suicide rate among college students and young adults. Vos personally serves on the boards of organizations including MMRF, Jed's Foundation, and the YWCA of the City of New York. She encourages her employees to do the same.

In part, this is just a continuation of a long-standing habit. "I recently heard someone say, 'Volunteer work is the rent we pay for being on the planet.' I believe in that."

But there is also a strong element of personal friendship in several of Vos' relationships with charitable organizations. For example, Kathy Giusti, founder and president of MMRF, was a client of Vos'. They met in the early '90s and worked together on an innovative program for Searle's NSAID Daypro (oxaprozin) that used arthritis patients to train physicians. In 1998, Giusti was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.


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