When Worlds Collide

The Unleashed Power of Marketing/R&D Collaboration
Sep 01, 2002

Winigrad: Someone talked about the importance of effective leaders for these teams. That's critical. One of the most important tools I see leaders use-and it works-is getting everybody, regardless of their discipline, focused on patients. They remind everybody that they're in the healthcare business, and they ask, "What are we going to do to create value for patients?"

One reason that companies may need to reach beyond the sales force is to hear the patient's voice. Pharma companies have a lot of value to add by understanding not just a product's mechanism of action but also how patients feel about the disease. The quality of life issues are critical. That is an important mechanism for bringing R&D together with the commercial function in working on the product.

Surprising Measures Although the discussion of patients hints at altruism, panelists soon make clear that a patient-centered focus promises ample rewards for the industry.

PE: In what other ways can companies and agencies tell whether the R&D/marketing integration is successful?

Schoen: If we are going to measure the success of the new model based on the number of successful products that we bring to market, I want to remind everybody that we have been integrating better, yet the last two years have been the worst in 30 years in terms of the number of new drugs brought to market. Does that mean integration is failing?

Turett: It's not the number of products that defines success or failure; it's the size of the profits. It only takes one Claritin to drive more revenue than you get for 15 orphan drugs. That's why it's important for us to be really clear about our goals and then work toward them. That's why I was getting at that issue of the industry's identity. I'm not talking about public relations; I'm talking about the public. The public resents the concept of us being only money-driven. They want needed products, not just giant products.

Harrison: But, adding to success from the company's point of view, how big could Claritin have been if the development cycle had been shortened by two months? Three months? Four months? How much faster or how much steeper would the curve have been at launch?

Anne Cunney: Recognizing that integration will not have an effect until some years from now, many companies are seeing the value of acquisition and licensing-especially with the small biotech firms coming up with novel approaches. That can be the basis of fueling the franchise approach for a long-term commitment in a given category or disease area, enabling companies to reap the value of early market research for an in-depth understanding of the customer voice.

But we're looking at a long-term commitment. Every opportunity for acquisition and licensing to fill those gaps is not a failure of the R&D or marketing groups to bring a molecule to market. It's part of the whole process.

Solomon: Who is our customer? Is it the physician, the patient, the family that influences the patient's decision? Or is it the spouse?

I focus on what triggers the physician's treatment decision. What drives a physician to treat the patient with coronary risk? It's right after that patient has had acute failure, and everybody is terrified. That's a key moment. It's key for medicine and it's key for marketing.

Only now are statin makers beginning to say, "You know what? With a MIRACL [myocardial ischemia reduction with aggressive cholesterol-lowering] trial, maybe we can use a chronic statin in an acute setting. Years ago, scientists knew that it couldn't just be lowering cholesterol. There had to be something else. But it wasn't until recently that people said, "What else are these drugs doing? We know they improve the endothelial function and there is the blood vessel..."

If that marketing insight had been recognized and incorporated into trial design early, I can only imagine what statins would have been today. You think they're a big market? They would have been double. The blockbuster model, trust me, is not dead.

Patricia Malone: It's important to know the nuances of the marketplace so you can discover niches. If we align our stakeholders around the total value, we will have a blockbuster. Not as we currently define it-mass produced and mass promoted- but as a sum of many different markets.

PE: What, after all, is a blockbuster? Is it just some compound that bowls everybody over with a new indication and takes the world by storm? Or is it something that can be created from other parameters, including patient behavior, compliance, delivery, and other benefits that improve healthcare? Maybe that is the chief value of the R&D/marketing interface-to enhance pharma's performance beyond what it's traditionally been able to achieve.

Parry: We tend to think that integration is just about the drug. And it isn't. Part of what is being integrated is the patient.

When you enroll a particular kind of individual in a clinical trial, you're already beginning to formulate the idea about what a blockbuster could be. A drug is nothing unless it has a useful purpose. And the size of the drug's potential in the marketplace depends on the number of people who need it.

Now, how many people knew ten years ago that there would be such a term as erectile dysfunction? That's brilliant branding. And it's not just about branding the drug; it's branding the condition and, by inference, a branding of the patient.

What makes a blockbuster has been evolving into not just branding the class or the science but branding the patient. What kind of patient does a blockbuster create? We're creating patient populations just as we're creating medicines, to make sure that products become blockbusters.

Krell: One of consumers' complaints about the pharma industry is that it's so focused on blockbuster drugs it seems only after the money. There are many diseases out there that require medications. And there are many newer, smaller companies coming up that are looking for small-cap products of $50–$60 million. And that's good for the people who need it and good for those companies.

There might be a danger in Big Pharma focusing almost exclusively on mega- brands because, if any of those brands fail, it puts that company in a bad light financially. As a business person, I would rather have ten clients who pay me $1 million a year than one client who pays me $10 million a year. It's much safer.

Arnold: Just another point about blockbusters. It's unfortunate that companies have allowed themselves to use that term on a routine basis. Companies are communicating the wrong message to the media.

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