Being Fred Hassan - Pharmaceutical Executive


Being Fred Hassan

Pharmaceutical Executive

Still, he's a master of execution. And in the end, that's what marketing comes down to. Some case studies:

A drug can make a market In 1983, Sandoz launched the transplantation drug Sandimmune (cyclosporine). The analysts thought it had a tiny market. Hassan thought it was a blockbuster. He proved right. He realized the number was low because the organ rejection rate was high: "You can expand markets," he says. "Once you have a valuable tool, usage in the disease goes up dramatically."

Pharmacoeconomics makes sense anywhere In the early 1990s, as executive vice president of American Home Products, Hassan was told that European price points would not go past a certain level for the rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel (etanercept). Hassan proved them wrong: He showed regulators the value of the product—specifically, its potency and specificity—and now Wyeth sells Enbrel at about the same price in Europe as it does in the United States.

Good DTC works As head of P&U, Hassan saw the ability to reposition the incontinence drug Detrusitol (tolterodine), then seen as a niche drug, as Detrol, a drug for "overactive bladder." "If it's something that's a little closer to the human experience, then you don't mind bringing the subject up with a doctor," says Hassan.

He saw Detrol as a growth engine and put sales and marketing muscle behind it—even as P&U was still smarting. With expanded resources, the company took Detrol not just to urologists, but to primary care physicians and consumers to create a mass-market drug.

Grow in the face of generic competition Even with Merck taking half the profits on the joint venture that markets Zetia and Vytorin, the cholesterol franchise is Schering-Plough's company's largest, bringing in nearly $2 billion for the company in 2006. For the first six months of 2007, sales were tracking 38 percent ahead of 2006.

What's more, Vytorin and Zetia are the only major brands in the crowded cholesterol-lowering category that have gained market share in total prescriptions since the end of 2006, according to the company. In this way, Schering-Plough has been effective at getting the message through to docs: Simvastatin alone does not get patients to their goal.

Still, challenges lie ahead. Major questions surround asenapine, given the mixed Phase III results that drove Pfizer off. But Hassan has experience in the market: At Sandoz, he championed the schizophrenia drug Clozaril (clozapine), which came with a risky side-effect profile. For asenapine, Hassan says the safety and efficacy studies are there and pays no mind to naysayers.

"Many drugs don't look very good at certain stages in their journeys, and many drugs fail in the end," says Hassan. "That's the way our business works. But I can tell you this: Almost every successful drug went through periods in its journey when it was a candidate for discontinuance."

Still, by the time asenapine gets to market (if it does), Clozaril and others will have lost patent protection. That means good results won't be enough—asenapine needs great results. The opportunity: Phase II data show asenapine helps patients' "negative" symptoms—lack of interest in themselves, their environment, etc.—a deeply unsatisfied need.

7 Have a posse

Hassan has not been shy about bringing his inner circle with him. He's worked with Carrie Cox, and others, since his days at Sandoz. And since joining Shering-Plough, he has replaced almost the entire executive management team with people he worked with at Pharmacia. First came Cox as head of the global pharmaceutical business. Next were Bruce Reid (who has since died) and Ken Banta, as head of strategic communications, respectively. R&D director Tom Koestler; senior vice president of global licensing Michael DuBois, and others followed, until the team was complete.


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