Tag Archives: pharmaceuticals

Salesmanship As We Know It

The first four years of All My Clones collected in a book now available at https://www.createspace.com/4166055

A spotlight centered on a microphone stand in the middle of the darkened stage.  A figure strode up to the microphone and spoke in a low rumble.  “Iron. Heavy.  Hemingway. Light.  Profound, isn’t it?”

The crowd of sales representatives went wild as Iron Hemingway took the stage and screamed through its one-hit wonder from 30 years ago.  The crowd danced and gyrated, even the reps who were born years after the band fell off the hit parade charts.

Rupert Madasheck inserted his earplugs as subtlely as he could and texted ‘Do they really like this stuff @ sales mtgs?’

Gamela Nuryandi looked at Rupert two feet away and at her team of sales reps on the dance floor.  She smiled and texted, ‘They luv this band!’  She added a few emoticons and hit Send.

Rupert frowned, shook his head, and texted back, ‘Do they realize most will be laid off 2morrow?’

Gamela put her hand over her mouth and nodded.  She texted, ‘Why not let them enjoy 1 last fling?’  She glanced out over the crowd, following some of the dancers as the band played its one hit for the seventh time.

Three hours later, Rupert and Gamela left the banquet hall and went into a conference room.  Rupert shut the door, fidgeted nervously, and asked, “Now that we can hear again, could I ask if you’ll have any sales force left over?”

Gamela groaned, sat down, and said, “Tomorrow I’ll lose 75% of them.  I wonder how many more will quit.  Can’t Research make more drugs?  We can sell anything but we need actual drugs to sell.  Now that we can’t spend anything on swag or gifts to physicians, we have plenty of budget left over.”

Rupert paced the room and growled.  “I blame the FDA.  Our drugs are fine as far as I know.  They haven’t killed anyone in clinical trials lately.  But now they complain about ‘efficacy’ and stuff like that.”

“I don’t understand much about all that,” Gamela confessed.  “After the FDA approves ‘em, we sell ‘em.  Someday could you explain how drugs get developed and approved?”

Rupert looked away at the closed conference room door and sighed.  “No, I don’t think so.  Remember I started out selling beauty supply products.”

Gamela leaned back in her chair.  “No!  Really?  How did you get from beauty supply to pharmaceuticals?”

Rupert sat down and leaned close.  “Reverse merger.[1]  I woke up and found myself CEO of a pharma company!”

“But now all my sales force will wake up and find themselves left out on the curb.  I still don’t understand why we need to cut back that much.”

“Your own sales people told you they were getting turned away at the door, right?” Rupert asked.

Gamela sighed.  “Yes, ever since that Dr. Evans spread the word about how to keep sales reps out of doctors’ offices.[2]  They don’t even take our notepads or laser pens any more.  They’d rather waste their time on seeing patients than get the information they really need.  What happens when the nation’s physicians are ignorant of our life-saving drugs and deplete their stock of Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals coffee mugs?”

“Think how bad it must be for all the other companies,” Rupert said.  “It’s not just sales forces, either.  The US pharma industry already laid off about 6400 people this year and it’s only June.”[3]

Gamela sobbed.  “Rupert, that isn’t the least bit consoling.”

Rupert put his hand on her shoulder.  “Well, it’s unbecoming of a professional to cry.  After all, I still have a job.”

Gamela jumped back.  “How is that supposed to help, you insensitive lout?”

“What I mean is, I can’t stop the layoffs here at Cappuccino.  But I can make exceptions.”

“You are planning to keep me employed, aren’t you?” Gamela asked.

“It looks like you are keeping yourself employed without my help,” Rupert said as he closed his eyes.

Outside the conference room, the intensity of the sales meeting swelled as Iron Hemingway  began playing their hit for the 97th time.

[1] Yes, this can happen!  Look up Venus Beauty Supply and Fermavir Pharmaceuticals.

[2] Evans et al., “Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Lessons Learned from a Pharma-Free Practice Transformation,”available at http://www.jabfm.org/content/26/3/332.full

[3] As reported by Pharmalot at http://www.pharmalive.com/and-those-pharma-job-cuts-just-keep-on-coming

It’s Not Inevitable!

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” Rupert said.  “I heard it from a great authority.” [1]

“I’m sure you would know, since you were there when Ben Franklin wrote it,” Betty Lidalot said.

George Contenumbaes said, “Well, speaking in my official CFO capacity, those two exceptions are not exactly valid.”

Betty and Rupert stared at George.  “Were you hoping to live forever?” Betty asked.

“Technically, corporations can live forever.  Some states insist that Limited Liability companies are partnerships and must have a finite lifetime.  But Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals can live forever.  Wrong again, Mr. Franklin.”

Rupert eyed George warily.  “Are you suggesting we can also avoid taxes?”

George raised his eyebrows in a blank look of utter innocence.  “Oh, no, not me.  But Apple and Google seem to suggest just that.”

Betty grunted.  “Yes, I’ve been reading about their scam to offshore everything to Ireland and avoid billions in taxes.  They wouldn’t be the first company.”

“Oh, there’s also Yahoo using both Ireland and the Cayman Islands,” George said.  “Let’s not forget Amazon avoiding British taxes by putting its headquarters in Luxembourg.  Same with Skype.”

“What a surprise,” Rupert said.  “Corporations doing everything legally possible to save money.  That party might be over, since I read that Ireland is discussing tax avoidance with the European Union.  And France might impose some cheese-eater’s culture tax.”

“Enough of international corporations wheeling and dealing,” Betty said.  “None of those are biotech related companies.  Tell me something inevitable in our business.”

“Tossing out heads of R&D,” said Rupert.  “You heard about AbbVie, Merck, and Bristol-Myers Squibb in the latest round, I’m sure.”  Betty and George nodded.  “Others might follow anytime soon.  J&J’s CEO sent out a memo to its employees to reassess their corporate credo – not a good sign.”

“That doesn’t mean they will toss their R&D Vice President,” said Betty.

“Why not?” Rupert asked.  “That’s what we do whenever there’s a problem.”

Betty rolled her eyes.  “Rupert, there’s a wave of production disasters around the world.  For one, there is the Canadian recall of drugs that used ingredients from a Chinese contract manufacturer.  Boehringer Ingelheim is imploding and shaking up its management because of production disasters.  But all of those are failures of execution, not of research.”

“You want failures of research?” Rupert asked.  “Let’s talk about Alzheimer’s Disease drug failures.  Baxter, Lilly, and the J&J-Elan collaboration.  Three failures that waited until the most expensive time to fail.  Why can’t failures happen before clinical trials?”

George sighed.  “There’s only one thing left that’s certain in this business.”  He paused for dramatic effect until Betty started tapping her foot on the tile floor.  He inhaled and said, “Medicinal pot.”

Betty and Rupert groaned and glared at George.

“Hear me out on this one,” George said.  “How many people like taking their meds?  Think about the way Avastin is used to treat macular degeneration.  I hear they inject the stuff right into the eyeball.”

Betty blanched.  Rupert covered his eyes and muttered, “Ick, that’s disgusting.”

“Yes, there are well over a million eyeball injections per year,” George said.  “But what about cannabis users?  There was a study to study the link between pot smoking and what people thought the benefit of pot smoking would be.”

Betty looked dazed.  “Are you saying they asked pot smokers if they liked smoking pot?”

“They asked if users had positive or negative expectancies of using pot.  Funny thing, those who expected positive things from using pot, um, tended to keep using pot.”

“So people who like using pot will use pot,” Betty said.  “Right?”

“Wouldn’t that fall under the ‘Well, Duh!’ category?” asked Rupert.

“Yes indeed,” said George.  “It was a study done at the VA in Palo Alto.  Using your tax money.” [2]

“My tax money!” Rupert and Betty cried in unison.  “Augh!”

A Free Lunch With Cappuccino

“It needs to be a lunchtime meeting,” Gamela Nuryandi said.  “You don’t want to be in that part of town after sunset.”

Malisma Collins, Vice President of Marketing, looked at the proposed invitation and asked, “Then why would anyone want to show up at all?”

“Think about it this way,” Gamela said as she spread her hands wide.  “We can spend big bucks on dinner at a restaurant fancy enough to lure physicians from their busy lives.  They won’t bother attending if you rent a room at a Boston Market.  They will insist on the best restaurants with at least a Zagat rating so they can order bottles of Opus One – on our tab.”

Malisma shook her head.  “Yes, but I see some of those states are rethinking their strict gift ban from pharmaceutical companies.  It seems their restaurant associations are complaining about the loss of business.” [1]

“That’s nice, but we also need to consider our own budget,” Gamela said.  “We need the same boost in prescriptions, so let’s try this avenue in my sales territory.  Inviting patients to lunch is much cheaper than hosting physicians for dinner.  The majority of patients won’t expect the same five-star meal as an MD.  Plenty of them will flock to, yes, even to a Boston Market for a free meal.  We save big-time with no alcohol on the bill and we might have a bigger effect in driving prescriptions.”

Malisma looked unimpressed.  “But for every doctor we could invite, how many patients will we need there?  How do we know they are really patients?”

“Many of these diseases have their own communities.  We can reach out through the advocacy groups to the patients and to caregivers.  Multiple sclerosis, for example.  There’s a National MS Society with online social networking.  Several of our other drugs have the same potential relation to patients.  These are savvy people who know how to advocate for their own health, and they can act as our pharma reps to guide prescriptions.”

“Would we still need a key opinion leader to give a talk?”  Malisma leaned back in her chair.

“Certainly.  These are savvy patients, remember.  They know the medical issues and they recognize names of our KOLs.  These patients are motivated enough to take time out for lunch in the middle of a day, too.”  Gamela smiled sweetly.

Malisma leaned forward in her chair and drummed her delicately painted fingernails on her desk.  “And you’re sure Newark, New Jersey, is a good place to host these luncheons?”

Gamela’s smile faded.  “Well…there are worse places in the world.”

Malisma frowned.  “Somalia or downtown Detroit, maybe.  Do we have a stock of Kevlar body armor?”

“Ha ha.  Remember it’s a free lunch, not a top-notch banquet.  We even have a limo service with bullet-proof windows that will guarantee safe delivery of our KOL speakers.  And remember, we aren’t the first to try sponsoring a free meal direct to patients. [2]  We don’t want to be left behind on this.”

Rupert knocked and asked, “Did anyone here order three crates of White Castle burgers?”

Episode 24: From P to Z

Betty sat in her office working on the evaluation report for prospective client BaryNucular Pharmaceuticals when she heard a strange chirping noise.  After a few chirps, she realized it was the rarely used landline.  “Who would be calling me on that old relic?  Good thing I have a SilenTouch keyboard,” she thought.  “I need to get this report done.”  Her fingers danced on the keyboard as she answered with the hands-free set.  “Betty Batter Buxholme and Bucolix,” she said.  “This is Betty.”

The high-pitched whiny voice of Beekman Byrdkowski replied, “Hi, Betty, how are you?”

“Beeky Byrd,” Betty chirped.  “How are you these days?  Any new schemes for success?”  Her fingers paused, then continued to dab and poke at the keyboard.

“Doubtless you heard about the Chinese lab that turns urine into brain cells?” Beeky said.  “It was in Scientific American so you know it must be true.  First, they isolate kidney cells out of urine.  In less than two weeks, they can grow stem cells.  In four weeks, they can turn these into neurons.”

Betty stopped typing.  “That’s amazing.  Are you thinking of gearing up a program to study neurogenetic diseases or autism spectrum disorders?  Beeky, that could be huge.”  She briefly thought about all of Beeky’s previous schemes as he sought her help in raising capital.  “For once, I think you have a medically valid concept,” she said.

Beeky’s chuckle clucked in her ear.  “Oh, I can’t be that ambitious all at once,” he said.  “I have a plan for generating food for zombies.”

Betty laughed.  “Zombies, indeed.  Yes, I see, grow and harvest brain cells to keep your army of zombies fed.”

“Well, actually, you poison the cells and leave them outside to kill rampaging zombie mobs,” Beeky said.

“Ha ha,” said Betty.  “Very witty.  Now seriously, what can I do for you today?”

Beeky inhaled deeply and sighed.  “Raise about twenty million for development, sterile bottle and filling, and marketing under the name ‘Zombie Zapper.’ There are ten zombie movies slated for release in 2013.  We need to get ready.”

“Ten movies?” asked Betty.  “Says who?”

Beeky sniffed.  “Surely you keep tabs on the Zombie Zone News?  IMDb lists twelve for 2013 release in the US, plus two more in 2014.”  Beeky’s voice began to climb in pitch and urgency.  “This will be huge, much bigger than global warming or the economy.  This is about life as we know it.”

Betty rolled her eyes, glad that it was not a video conferencing call.  “Beeky, we invest in biotech.  You are talking entertainment, not our field at all.”

“Entertainment?  You call rampaging hordes of zombies entertainment?”  Beeky choked as he gasped for breath.

“It’s movie tie-ins, it’s entertainment,” Betty said.  “None of this is real.”

“Then why is the CDC issuing videos to train medical personnel what to do during a zombie attack?”

“What?” asked Betty.  “Oh, for heaven’s – that’s not true.”

“Is so.  Look it up, it’s called Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic.  I’ll wait.”

Betty spoke the title and her computer brought up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  She stared at the site offering the government-sponsored training to prepare for a zombie apocalypse and thought, ‘My tax money!’  “Beeky, that’s not real.  It’s a joke.”

“Your government spies on and renders its own citizens with impunity.  It does not joke,” Beeky said.  “And neither do I.  You know what this means.  It’s fact wrapped up to look like fiction to avoid panic.  Yet when the panic comes, they can claim they gave us all fair warning.”

Betty moaned.  “Okay, we have gotten far off the topic of isolating cells from urine and turning them into neurons.  Are you collaborating with the Chinese group?”

“Not yet, I need to develop a serious proposal and line up some serious funding commitments.  Think about it.  All those neurodegenerative diseases together are a small patient population.  Zombies affect us all, the whole seven billion people’s worth.”

“What will you use as the poison?” Betty asked.  “Since zombies are already dead, what harm could poison do to them?  How will you conduct the trials to demonstrate efficacy?  Do zombies need to sign informed consent forms?”

There was silence from Beeky.  Followed by more silence.  Then he uttered something more fowl than birdlike.  “Okay, okay,” he said finally.  “I’ll focus on feeding your very own zombie army.  Keeps the bad guys out of your yard.”

“Stick to those neurons and their medical uses,” Betty said.  “Diseases like Parkinson’s need better options.  Leave the zombies to Hollywood.”  She pulled a kitchen timer off her desk and set it to one second.  When the alarm went off, she said, “Oh, sorry, I need to go now.  Good luck, Beeky.”  She broke the connection quickly to avoid any awkward pleadings and goodbyes.

After a pause, Betty called another number.  A voice said, “Cappuccino Pharmaceuticals, this is Rupert Madasheck.”

“Really?  Are you mad as all that?”

“Betty, good to hear from you,” Rupert said.  “How are things going at BBB and B?”

“Stranger than you think,” Betty said.  She briefly described her conversation with Beekman and said, “I don’t think we will spend time trying to raise capital for him on this one.”

“Good plan,” said Rupert.  “Those urine cells were transplanted into rat brains.  Make sure you know those rats actually exist.”

“Of course they exist,” Betty said as she glanced at her monitor.  “I see at least one other paper published a year ago from the same group.”

“Well, not to be overly cautious or anything,” Rupert said, “but there was already a recent report of misconduct.  Apparently someone published work on cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients.  Important stuff, and there were about ten papers over the last decade, all using a strain of mouse that never existed.”

Betty gasped.  “Oh, Rupert!  That’s terrible.  It’s not anyone at Cappuccino, is it?”

“No, of course not.  It was some university guy.  Just not a smart thing to do.”  Rupert tapped on a keyboard, then said, “Oh, yes, opera night tonight.  Shall we meet at the Met?  According to the calendar, they are doing a special fundraising performance of Evenings in Quarantine: The Zombie Opera.”

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