Pipeline or P45? Blogger Maxine Vaccine asks whether the pharma industry is willing to put its money where its mouth is regarding its strategy for surviving the recession.
As the global recession spirals further out of control and the UK looks set to follow Greece, Spain and Ireland into deeper crisis, the online Pf readers’ poll asked: What’s the best way forward for the pharma industry?
The response has been impressive: 84 % ticked ‘Collaboration to enter specialist areas’, 16% ticked ‘Cheap generics and biosimilars’, and nobody agreed with ‘Cutting back to survive austerity’.
To be honest, the second answer was just us being sarcastic. We didn’t expect anyone to say that was a good thing. And the third answer, though bleak, so clearly reflects the realpolitik of the industry in 2012 that we expected it to be a strong contender – though we hoped confidence in the collaboration model would outweigh it.
So it’s quite striking to see that none of our respondents thought austerity measures were the answer. But is their view supported by the leaders of the industry?
On the face of it, yes. John Lechleiter, CEO of Eli Lilly, said recently: “I don’t think we can save our way out of the enormous challenge we face. The best course is to maintain our focus on advancing our pipeline.”
But in 2012 Lilly has announced a global salary freeze for most of its employees, including the CEO (whose bonus package remains at a tidy $16.4 million), after a quarter in which its ‘blockbuster’ antipsychotic Zyprexa lost 44% of its former market due to generic competition.
Pfizer is similarly talking a ‘pipeline’ game, but is reducing its employees’ redundancy terms from 12 to 8 weeks as a prelude to further layoffs, and may split into branded and generic drug businesses. The Lipitor patent cliff may have been seen from a long way off, but the parachute didn’t open.
Dashiell Hammett – author of that immortal satire on the commercial mentality, The Maltese Falcon – said that he took up drinking when he realised that what people say has nothing to do with what they do. Some of us may wonder what took him so long.
In recent years, the pharma industry has taken steps to repair its reputation with the public – who have never exactly seen pharma as the place where you go to learn integrity and honesty. In particular, much attention has been given to industry codes of practice on dealings with customers. From luxury flights to biros and biscuits, the industry is cultivating a new image as the Puritans of the commercial world.
But has trust between management and staff in the pharma industry improved? Are companies treating their employees better? Is the representation of staff within the industry stronger? You tell me. And wait for the Pf Survey 2012 results to find out how your peers feel.
Meanwhile, if – like us – you are genuinely impressed by the emerging culture of cross-sector collaboration and partnership, it may be worth just keeping two words in mind. Hostile takeover.
Maxine’s views are not necessarily those of Pharmaceutical Field.