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Thought Leader: Getting "Sirius" About Specialty


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-07-01-2005
Volume 0
Issue 0

Garry Barnes says he joined the pharma industry for job security-but don't believe him. During the last 25 years, Barnes has worked for four pharma companies and built five sales forces in therapeutic areas ranging from contraception to organ transplantation.

Garry Barnes says he joined the pharma industry for job security—but don't believe him. During the last 25 years, Barnes has worked for four pharma companies and built five sales forces in therapeutic areas ranging from contraception to organ transplantation.

In that trail of experience, Barnes leaves behind a host of successful launches. But what ties those efforts together, and reflects Barnes' philosophy of success, is his focus on specialty care. Now, at the helm of Sirius Laboratories, a private company specializing in dermatology, Barnes draws upon his experiences and offers insight into his world of specialty sales force excellence.

Pharm Exec: What was your first experience in developing a sales force?

Barnes: Although not directly tied to sales, my first real accomplishment was building the medical science liaison group at Fujisawa Healthcare [now Astellas]. The belief was that, in such a clinically-driven area as organ transplant, high-science experts would be useful in pre-launch efforts. I had no experience in recruiting this profile of employee, so I learned what I could and then just went for it. Was I scared to assemble something that didn't exist or that I had no experience in doing? Absolutely—but I guess I was more risk averse back then than I am now [laughs].

I was then asked to start building the infrastructure for what was to be the new sales and marketing team for Prograf (tacrolimus). We were a small group of about 20—almost a SWAT team—within the larger company, and built the sales of Prograf to over $600 million with only 30 reps and a handful of management. With each territory averaging over $20 million in sales, it was imperative that our specialty sales people knew how to sell in a clinical environment and how every sales call needed to move their effort one step closer to the goal of market leadership.

Growth Rates-Sirius vs. Competition

Were sales force allocation tools a part of that success?

We certainly relied on some targeting tools that were typically available. But we also proactively surveyed the transplant community. We knew that if our customers rated us the highest in professionalism, knowledge, and contribution to the treatment area, we could own the market. They did—and within the first two years, we acquired a 65-percent market share within our indication.

What issues do specialty companies share with Big Pharma?

All companies want to provide innovative products to their marketplaces that will have sustained growth and, if possible, protection from generic intrusion. Intellectual property is essential in our business today. After all, even the most innovative and successful drug is just a whisper away from destruction if it is not wrapped in trademarks and patent protection.

What Big Pharma issues don't affect you?

Honestly, not many. Our industry is in a credibility crisis with consumers. It's far from being lost forever, but big and small companies alike need to monitor themselves closer with regards to fair balance reporting of clinical data outcomes, corporate governance, and general good business practices.

Another issue created by large pharma that small companies are confronted with is the concept of the sales pod. Many offices are starting to limit or prohibit pharma reps from having quality time with the staff and doctors because of the pod tactic.

What tactics do you use to gain access with physicians?

We spend a lot of time learning what our customers want and how we can satisfy those needs. We bring value to the doctor by understanding dermatology, understanding their patients, and offering quality niche products.

We try to be innovative in virtually all areas of our business. I even ask reps, "How did you differentiate yourself and our products today?"

Product development is another area we have a leg up on the competition. We're not seeing a lot of new science in dermatology, so "me-too" products seem to be the genesis of what dermatology companies are making available today. Sirius could bring those same products to market, but is there value in that? We have several products now, of which three are nice success stories. The other ones are doing well, but they always will be at the smaller end of the revenue ladder. To my way of thinking, it's better to have one $10 million brand than ten $1 million brands. These strategic decisions are important to future success at any company.

What philosophy do you use to guide those decisions?

Our platform is one of building value into all decisions we make. If it does not add value for our customers, our business, or our private shareholders, then we move on. Continuously asking ourselves the question, "Does it add value?" makes us more productive in the long run.

How do you instill value in managing the sales force?

Our sales force is our single largest investment and our single largest link to the level of success. They are our engines of growth. My challenge is to worry less about counting calls and focus more on making each call count.

With 18 sales people, we can afford to do this at our stage of growth. They must differentiate their products and themselves every day by making quality sales calls. I believe that our marketing efforts rival our larger competitors, but a marketing message is only as good as the salesperson delivering it.

What's the mood like at Sirius?

Even today, we're not targeting survival like so many other companies—our target is growth. The world is our oyster right now. These are exciting times because employees can take pride in building the next generation of the company. I get up every morning looking forward to putting the next part of our "building value" plan into place. That thinking, that enthusiasm, is part of what I hope to instill within our corporate culture.

Garry Barnes As president and CEO of Sirius Laboratories, Garry Barnes is responsible for establishing the overall strategic direction for the company and meeting operational outcomes. Prior to joining Sirius, Barnes held positions of increasing management responsibility at Fujisawa Healthcare, concluding in the role of vice president of sales for North America, a position he held from 1998 to 2003. Under his management, Fujisawa launched several new drugs and achieved market-share domination in three core markets. Before that, Barnes worked at Serono, where he established and served as director of the company's first national trade and managed care accounts group. Barnes began his career in the industry in 1980, as a sales representative for Johnson & Johnson's Ortho.

Rep ROI: With the launch of Nicomide (nicotinamide), Sirius Laboratories' sales reps produced more prescriptions per rep compared to the product launches of direct competitors. For example, at the same time Sirius launched Nicomide in 2001, Bioglan US launched Adoxa (doxycycline). However, by month 10, Bioglan was producing approximately 300 prescriptions (TRx) per month per sales rep compared with the 1,000 scripts each rep was producing for Nicomide. Medicis, which launched Dynacin (minoccline) in 1992, produced only 700 TRx per sales rep per month following its introduction.

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