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Euro'vision blog

A look at the key issues for pharma across Europe

Food for thought

By now most of us have eaten our last plate of cold turkey, recycled the Christmas tree, and exchanged the five identical sweaters given us by loving friends and family. So it’s timely, I felt, to come up with three resolutions that can help us bring our minds back to business, and our focus to the year ahead.

Even if some are made to be broken, it is a good time of year to think about the year ahead for our industry and to think about a few things that controversially may or may not help our industry to survive the tough times we're likely to face.

Now I am sure that not everyone will agree with the resolutions below, but that is not really the point. What is important is to start thinking as a group about the things we can do proactively to protect, promote and enhance our industry.

It would certainly be interesting to hear from others about other things they feel should be added to the list. Of course its not just the thought that counts, but at least it's a good start to what we all hope will be a happy New Year.

Resolution 1: Pushing the boundaries does not mean anything goes. The recent scandals in France relating to pharma companies' relations with doctors, and the constant stream of large fines coming from the US for inappropriate promotion of medicines, does incalculable damage to the industry's reputation. All of us, within both industry and agencies, have a responsibility to ensure that nothing we do could be misinterpreted as remotely unethical. The 'would you be happy if this were printed in the newspaper' test is a pretty good benchmark.

Resolution 2: Can we find a better way than the use of the sales rep to promote awareness and knowledge of our products? Ok – this one is controversial but in my opinion (and its already happened in Russia and to a lesser extent elsewhere) in the next year or so, EU governments will ban sales representatives from visiting doctors during working hours, and probably also ban meetings and dinners.

Might it not be a better sign that the industry is changing if pharma companies proactively and publicly withdrew from this type of promotion voluntarily?  In the short term there might be some slight competitive disadvantage, but could the long-term benefit outweigh this? Indeed for mature products (and Takeda UK is a good example of this) withdrawing sales force support can give significantly increased short-term profitability.

Resolution 3: Really show belief in the value of medicines: The recent decision by Roche in Germany to risk share with the government on Avastin in cancer treatment is a great example of a new way of thinking.

By reimbursing the cost of the drug where the patient did not respond, the company showed both a great faith in their drug, and a real understanding of some of the reasons that might prevent the drug being used. There is no doubt that more patients will benefit from this drug than would have if they had not been so creative. It would be great to find other ways to do the same thing in other countries and therapeutic categories.

Article by
Max Jackson

Max Jackson is CEO, EMEA & APAC, Sudler & Hennessey and former chair EACA Healthcare Communications Council

4th January 2012


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