I almost didn’t write this book, says author, Hedley Rees, Managing Consultant, PharmaFlow Ltd. My maiden attempt at a book, although getting great reviews, was a disappointment in terms of sales. I had been certain the world was hungry to hear the messages within, not just to inform and educate on my specialist subject — strategic management of the supply chain — but also to help catalyse change for the better in the pharmaceutical industry.
As I think back now, the important messages were disguised within a relatively high-priced textbook in an industry where the topic of professional management of end-to-end supply chains was as popular as the Conservative club in Moscow!
But, here’s the thing. The big pharmaceutical companies have painted themselves into a corner during the last few decades. By dropping products once out-of-patent protection, and embarking on the wholesale divestment of skilled people and facilities that are crucial to developing properly differentiated products, there is nowhere left to go.
The patent cliff is with us, big time, created by attrition rates that beggar belief: 249 out of every 250 compounds in development fail. Hence, the drips that do get to market have to be priced at eye-watering levels to recover all that cost of failure.
FIND IT, FILE IT, FLOG IT asserts that this is all a predicable outcome of the industry’s propensity to chase blockbuster products and earn massive returns for themselves and their investors. The book uses the following metaphor:
Big Pharma was crippled by a debilitating addiction many years ago. As with any addiction, lifestyle choices are at the centre of the problem and, for the addictive gambler, the roots of their demise lay in early success. Seduced by the ‘rush’ of easy money, it becomes a way of life. They don’t feel the need to go out and work, preferring to focus on beating the odds. Nothing is as important as the next win; and, often, possessions and relationships are discarded to fuel the habit. By the time the writing appears on the wall, it’s all too late. No home, no family and few friends; little money and no prospect of being able to hold down a job in the competitive world of employment.
“This may seem to be an extreme assessment,” notes Hedley, “and in some ways it is … as the big pharmaceutical companies are still relatively rich. However, the industry key players do exhibit many of the characteristics we see with the gambler above. An obsession with chasing the big win (blockbusters), low level engagement in key relationships (for example, patients, doctors, contractors, regulators and distributors), divestment of life-possessions to fund the stake and hedge the uncertainty (mass, tactical outsourcing and abandonment of out-of-patent products), and a mindset embedded in those early years of success, as an alternative to the hard yards of working for a living.”
“If we take the metaphor at face value, things don’t look good for Big Pharma. The habits of a lifetime die hard. Often, addiction is a slow downward spiral into the gutter. Some would argue that is the trajectory before us, the logical conclusion of a lifetime of neglect. It would be perfectly reasonable to see it that way, given what we now know.”
“If the addict were to accept its plight, admit the problem and seek rehab, there are further harsh realities to face that stem from the lifetime of addiction. These need to be unearthed to appreciate the enormity of the journey ahead, if it is to be one of recovery,” he concludes.
The book then lays out the harsh realities under the headings
- Big Pharma needs a science lesson
- The valley of death is stealing our drugs
- The patent clock is running the show
- Strangers are sailing the ship
- There is a massive gulf between healthcare professionals and Big Pharma
- Regulators are getting in the way of the patient-provider interface
- If the regulators say jump, the industry says “how high”
- Patient markets are shrinking irreversibly
- New business models are sitting on a knife edge
- Governments pouring money into science won’t help
- Investors are on the wrong track
- Universities and colleges have caught the science bug.
It then suggests a new model for product development, based upon two stages rather than three. It concludes with radical proposals for how all this could be achieved. Click here to discover more.