Publisher’s Letter: Why Does Embracing Change Feel Like Hugging a Cactus?

Changing business models are nothing new. Blockbuster drugs—seemingly the eternal bedrock of the drug industry—didn’t emerge until the late 1970s. There were other models before, and (it’s quite clear) there will be other models after.

It’s a human quirk to equate “slow change” with “no change.” And when we can’t ignore change any more, we wonder, “Why have we been singled out for this upheaval?”

Twice, recently, we’ve sat behind the scenes with industry people while they were thinking their ways into the future. (See this month’s The Scene for a little more on both sessions.) QualityHealth’s September conference featured brand-runners exploring new approaches to the direct-to-consumer channel. And the other day, I sat in with Cegedim Relationship Management as they unveiled their second annual Pharma Insights Survey of key bio-pharmaceutical business decision-makers. The data were fascinating (we’ll get to some of them in a moment), but, again, the really exciting thing was to look behind the scenes with people who are working so hard and so creatively to understand this constant change and doing a lot of heavy lifting to get out in front of the trends.

The survey reached out to folks (mostly managers and directors), predominantly in large companies, and most often in sales (44%) or marketing (19%). The plurality (42%) listed “prescribers” as their primary customers…but 19% said “patients,” 17% said “government,” and 16% answered “managed care.”

Their overriding concern is—surprise, surprise—the changing commercial business model (87%) that is keeping all of us up at night. Next most pressing were the impact of impending regulatory reform (82%) and concern about pipeline growth, or the lack thereof (76%). (Worries about generic competition trailed at a distant fourth on the list of nightmares in the closet.)

How should we adapt to the mighty morphing business model? Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that they are zeroing in on market-access; 63% concentrate on managed markets; 59% are realigning their sales forces.

Manufacturers are moving their decision-making closer to the customer, relying less on strategic planning groups (cited by 29% of respondents, down from 40% last year), and more on commercial operations growing (28%, up from 22%) and the brand teams (23%, up from 18%).

Change is unsettling. Working with people to confront, understand, and master change…that’s a thrill.

PS. PM360 would like to repeat its thanks to the brand managers from more than 120 companies (from Abbot to Xanodyne, listed on our Web site) who completed the lengthy product-manager survey whose results we published as a supplement to our August issue. Once again, we appreciate the privilege of working with this extraordinary group of people, and value this amazing input…from our own innovative marketing community network. We thank all of you, and especially those who took the time to participate. As a small token of our thanks, we have, as promised, distributed an iPad2, an iPod Touch, and a Kindle among three respondents (two brand managers in pharma, and one in medical devices) selected at random.

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