Stephen E. Gerard, TGaS Advisors

Nov 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Stephen E. Gerard
CONSULTANTS AND ADVISERS to pharma deal with a high degree of complexity because of the intense scrutiny on all industry activities, particularly commercial operations. The regulatory environment, the challenges of bringing a drug to market and keeping it viable, and the number of moving parts in a pharma company drive the complexity, which makes decisions more complicated. Pharmaceutical-industry consultants also need to consider public perception, impact on patients, and privacy boundaries when advising on strategy and tactics.

Most companies are dealing with gaps in their pipelines and other pressures, and in the face of those issues, they are performing well from a profitability perspective. I've also seen a willingness to evaluate new methods of operating. However, I would give pharma lower marks for the last eight to 10 years. The decisions made in the last decade have led to what we see today—gaps in pipelines and overgrown sales forces.


Revolution is an overused catchword that carries little perspective about the past few decades in pharma and little respect for its accomplishments. While the pace of evolution may accelerate, those of us who have spent a few decades in this industry understand that change is constant and that the most successful companies see it as an opportunity for growth.

Pharma needs to reframe the value proposition to consumers from the current dialogue—the costs of getting a new drug to market and the time it takes—to a more value-oriented approach. For example: What is a product or service that will help you live longer with better quality of life worth to you?


Average consumers do not care that it takes a billion dollars and 12 years to get a drug to market. What they care about is that it improves and extends their lives. Pharma needs to do a better job of bringing home to people that we all have a medicine chest of products that help us, our children, and our parents live better, longer, and more independent lives.

Pharma companies need to communicate the concept of value. And by that, I do not mean health economics, but the value of living 10 years longer, feeling better every day, and being as active as one chooses to be. Pharmaceutical products are integral to every aspect of medicine today.


Once you get through the uncertainty and the natural resistance to bold decisions, things have a way of working out, creating a momentum that feeds on itself. If a company believes that it needs an overhaul in its go-to-market strategy, then it needs to focus all of its innovation efforts in that direction. If it does not, then it is destined to be a follower.

Benchmarking has brought home to us that the greatest need is an openness to change. People must be willing to listen, think outside their own perspective and culture, and make real change. Very few people in pharma will be able to simply ride out their careers, doing the same things in the same ways as they are today.

In the area of sales and marketing, pharma companies need to continue to streamline their operations areas in conjunction with specific portfolio and brand strategies to ensure they are leveraging business processes and technologies for maximum sales and marketing effectiveness.

From a larger perspective, benchmarking top-tier and mid-tier companies across the industry has shown us the need for a collaborative effort to harmonize pharma's traditional product and business-unit focus, structures, and reward schemes with the market's and patients' desires for more cost-effective and innovative healthcare.


I ask clients to appreciate how their own activities and decisions compare with those of their peers and to be willing to make changes accordingly. This is not a one-time deal. Companies that benefit the most take the time to gain that perspective on a continuous basis.


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