John Castellani: Industry's Level Bet on a Dizzying Future - Pharmaceutical Executive

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John Castellani: Industry's Level Bet on a Dizzying Future
Will reinforced evidence and messaging continue to deliver results in a changing healthcare marketplace? Can PhRMA's own business model synch with industry's? Pharm Exec takes a closer look at PhRMA's new leadership


Pharmaceutical Executive


View from the Top

WL: You assumed your current role in September 2010. Six months in, what leadership skills are most vital in running a major trade association like PhRMA?

JC: Even in the context of a single industry like pharmaceuticals, there are diverse interests and distinctive personalities—you cannot be tone deaf to that. So a basic test of leadership is to help our CEOs identify priorities that make sense as a collective mandate that advances the position of the industry rather than what one might follow as an individual company. Targeted execution of these priorities is equally important. There are an endless number of issues that a big organization like PhRMA can engage on. In the age of the "Twitter feed" cycle, the temptation is to swing at everything that comes our way. It's these distractions fed by the 24-hour news cycle and all the insider beltway buzz that can de-motivate staff, weaken our messaging, and make our resource deployment less effective. "Are we focusing?" is the question I ask myself every day. Try to do it all and you end up being successful at nothing.

WL: Distractions work both ways. How does PhRMA make sure its advocacy is recognized and incorporated by key stakeholders, who face equally severe constraints on their capacity to absorb information as the basis for informed decision-making?

JC: This is a significant challenge because the number of registered lobbyists here in Washington alone has doubled in the past five years. Much of the growth is taking place among interests that are not linked to big business. Hence fighting for "share of voice" is increasingly a matter of demonstrating value to the policymaker—you can't establish credibility just on the basis of whom you represent.

PhRMA is a service business whose product is information and evidence that is useful to the policymaker. Our perspective has to be accurate and credible in the context of recognizing that there is always an opposing view. It must contribute to solving a problem or creating a new opportunity. Above all, we have to be politically savvy; to understand what the underlying motivations are that drive policy and will lead to a resolution—a result that works. I can't go to a member of Congress or a state legislature and give them something that will compromise their position with peers and just lead to more stalemate.

There is more, too. We have to surround the decision-makers with broader grassroots advocacy. If we can convince them to support our position, then we also must ensure they are rewarded for that by the constituencies that determine their future. Lobbying is different today; rare is the case where we can be successful by sitting down for an off-record meeting with a politician or government official and wrap it all up in an afternoon. Grassroots work is costly and time consuming, taking up roughly one-third of our budget. It's a continuing strategic and operational priority for PhRMA.


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