Rise of the Vaccines

by John Pinching 26. May 2016 09:10

We are climbing the mountain of inoculation history, and the view is spectacular – but complicated.

In the western world, two iconic images have come to define ‘needles’, vaccinations and the general melting pot of injections (it’s striking how many people still don’t make any distinction between these categories!). The first is the filth and degradation of heroin dependency, popularised in the film Trainspotting and – in glorious contrast – the second, is the trypanophobic image of a rotund nurse, wielding an impossibly large syringe, as weeping school children queue, paralysed by fear. 

Indeed, I still have vivid infantile recollections of being summoned to the nurse, for my TB jab, and having to make a detour to a remote convenience, in order to compose myself. There, pacing among the urinals, I found the ‘toughest boy in the year’, evidently shaken to the core – tortured by the thought of a gargantuan, poison-laced spike savaging his flesh. Bonded by terror, we carefully went through the possible scenarios, when it came to being vaccinated, and this included – as I recall – death. 

The irony was entirely lost on the young Pinching, and it genuinely never occurred to me that the jab was, in actual fact, saving me from a deadly disease which, hitherto, had killed thousands. Eventually, my fellow ‘fear prisoner’, and I, completed the walk of shame, to the nurse’s room. When it was his turn, the ‘toughest boy in the year’ emitted a short, sharp scream – as he was inoculated – before emerging, from behind the curtain, and fleeing. We never spoke again – we were just two more guys with a dark secret. What should not be shrouded in secrecy is the vital role that vaccinations continue to play in the survival of the human race. In spite of what some view as a medicine delivery system that belongs in the asylums of a bygone age; vaccines remain at the cutting edge of science – offering salvation to millions worldwide. Treatment breakthroughs are surfacing at a faster rate than ever before, and history will witness that, for vaccines, and the companies developing them – this is the second coming. 

The intrepid scientific breakthroughs have been timely – but have also come at a price. Ebola has, before our very eyes, fallen off the dreaded red ticker tape of 24 hour news; we no longer read about the suffering of those people in North Africa, whose ommunities were devastated by this unrelenting condition. 

The outbreak began in 2013 and – following WHO’s unprecedented license to ‘experiment’ with possible treatments – a race for a preventative vaccine duly unfolded. Small US-based firm Novavax experienced some success with their early version of a vaccine in 2014, and the guys at National Microbiology Laboratory, in Canada, brought us the 100% unpronounceable, but ‘100% effective’, VSV-EBOV vaccine, which has made it to phase III trials. Furthermore, GSK demonstrated a fearless approach – not to mention creative zeal – by using a chimpanzee’s cold virus, in the development of its candidate, which is also at an advanced phase. 

In spite of the success, and speed at which these medical marvels have been realised, there is still sneering from the, mainly, British press. They will – with no appreciation of what it takes, in terms of cost, personnel and technology, to jump into the serpent’s pit of deadly diseases – ask arbitrary questions, like ‘why wasn’t it discovered earlier?’ and, ‘if we’ve known about it so long, why are you only doing something now?’ 

The British press, far from celebrating the milestones achieved by pharma in the area of vaccines, have a long history of ignorance, which belongs more to the speculation of witchcraft, than modern science. The MMR jab is still reeling after more than one tabloid newspaper insisted – without corroboration – that it could lead to autism in children; that somehow an infant could be ‘injected’ with ‘emotional disconnection’. While children should have enjoyed the benefit of disease protection, to the power of three, parents were instead wrestling with a moral dichotomy. In reality, there was no scientific basis for this ‘judgement’. It was a bit like suggesting that someone who consumes a ham sandwich, is 70% more likely to commit a homicide, within three hours of lunch. It’s all so much baloney. 

Vaccines have, however, formed a complex maze – morally, socially and politically – in our collective consciousness. This is underlined by the current meningitis B maelstrom. In the UK this ground-breaking vaccine is only being offered to children below one year of age, leaving anyone above that threshold vulnerable. In the opinion of this author, if we have the knowledge and means to protect our children, that is precisely what we should be doing – and, tragically, there have been some very notable examples of why we should get on with doing it. 

Indeed, we may well ask, if we are prepared to treat people with lung cancer – who knew the risk of smoking – should we not help innocent children, who have done nothing to deserve the suffering brought on by meningitis. If money is the problem, then perhaps a hasty exit from the EU is further incentivised – two weeks’ worth of membership fees would, not only protect our children, but also provide another shot in the arm for an already upbeat pharma industry. If we have any left over, we can ship a consignment off to the developing world. See, you don’t have to know the special handshake, of an anachronistic society, if you aspire to humanitarian ideologies. On that note, it is also worth raising a salute to some remarkable vaccine-based victories achieved by pharma in recent times. Sanofi Pasteur MSD – who have since announced their amicable separation – received the go-ahead for immunising children, between nine and 14, against cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. 

Impressively, Boehringer Ingelheim have – once again – defied the perception of big pharma, by helping to fund the development of Amal Therapeutics’ colorectal vaccine, ‘ATP 124’, while also backing its KISIMA technology platform, for a therapeutic tumour vaccination. 

Meanwhile, the summit of vaccination territory, remains immunity against HIV – the cloud that still casts its spectre over mankind, from the nightclubs of London, to the desolate wastelands of India and Africa. Many have hung tantalisingly from the precipices of widespread inoculation, only to fail at advanced phases of the climb. With billions invested, more clinical trials in the pipeline and the promise of game-changing status, an HIV vaccine would not only rid the world of a malignant enemy, but trigger a shift in pharma’s cultural status. 

From a company perspective, vaccines certainly represent a chance to impact on the greatest number of lives, in the shortest amount of time. Or, as a slightly cynical pharma veteran, who shall remain nameless, put it, "rather than providing a few ill people, with treatment they do need, its far better to provide 100,000 vaccines to people who don’t." Actually, the motivation, when it comes to global pandemics, is largely irrelevant. I’m in no doubt, however, that pharma is on a crusade against these diseases, because having a fair chance, is a basic human right, and protecting that – and the citizens of the world – is the enduring reason that this industry exists at all.


Check out how the ABPI is committed to the ongoing use and development of vaccines


Illustration by Alex Buccheri @this_is_bucci


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Industry gets upgrade at PM Society Digital Awards

by John Pinching 25. May 2016 09:32

For a while ‘the future’ has been imminent, but the PM Society Digital Awards was the most convincing evidence yet that pharma and digital are dating – and they’ve got past second base.

Rachel Farrow – co-chair of the society – had the idea of exclusively recognising digital excellence years ago, when pharma marketing was still a pen and ink pot operation. Boy, what a prophecy that has turned out to be!

Revolutionary digital wizardry

Pharma’s digital community gathered within the exposed brickwork walls of The Brewery, in London, and while a kaleidoscope of strobe lighting danced across their faces, the delegates laughed as they discussed real world data and meta-tags and ‘breadcrumbs’. This scenario was unthinkable a decade ago. It was like being immersed in a giant healthcare tech-hub, populated by nerds, who were gleefully changing the old order.

I was keen to check out some of this revolutionary digital wizardry but, for the life of me, I couldn’t find the exhibition. The woman I asked smiled sympathetically, and led me to a state-of-the-art virtual experience, on a touch screen monitor, and with that, dear reader, the last of my brain’s analogue settings were vanquished for eternity. 

Meanwhile, Jason Manford proved an inspired host. Unleashing a tirade of anti-southern rhetoric, and resembling a club comic from the 1970s, he was an amusing contrast to the futuristic vibe of the evening.

Among the big winners were ‘The Trouble with Dragons’, which used playful animation to help parents and their children manage ADHD, and ‘Virtual Valve’ – a combination of striking infographics with astonishing biological ‘tours’. My personal favourite, however, was the social media campaign, ‘Sniffers’. A brilliant parody of a drugs bust, the film features a squad of ‘STI police’, accompanied by dogs, entering a nightclub and ‘sniffing out’ people with undiagnosed conditions. It even appeared on porn sites although, naturally, I cannot verify this.

It seemed to me that the ideas emerging from all the finalists, represented a changing of the guard, where patients are not filed under their disease area, but encouraged to rise above it and – as individuals – take ownership of it.

Indeed, at the heart of all these extraordinary devices was genuine patient and healthcare professional engagement. This was pharma talking and listening to patients and, critically, providing them
with a platform to make a difference. 

In the final analysis, the digital monolith is here, and there’s no getting away from it. By the end of the evening I felt part of a new era-defining moment, and couldn’t help dancing to the algorithm of the night. 

Go to pmsociety.org.uk


Gold getters

Selling tools & CLM initiatives RFA More than a name idetail

HCP education & support emotive Virtual Valve

Multichannel campaign McCann Manchester The Trouble with Dragons (pictured)

Healthcare partnerships GM AHSN Stroke Landscape Tool

Patient initiatives The Earthworks Transplant360

Market access emotive EYLEA Commissioning Toolkit

Mobile apps Incuna Risk Factor Calculator

Social media Langland Sniffers

Congress/Meetings emotive Virtual Valve

Pharma corporate comms McCann Manchester Elvanse Adult Brand Tool App

Film Langland Sniffers

Gamification Halesway The Restoration Game

Animation Langland JINARC MOA

Agency self-promotion 90TEN Life-changing website

Innovation Pegasus MS Explorer

Digital Account Manager Radical Departures Catherine Silk 

Social media company of the year Boehringer Ingelheim







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3D technology set to revolutionise pharma and healthcare

by Amy Schofield 24. May 2016 13:28

It might be before your time, but some of us remember how excited we were when 3D technology first burst onto the scene in the 1980s. Flimsy 3D glasses, complete with red and green lenses, were given away in cereal packets - this was the future and we could feel part of it. Then we quickly lost interest and 3D disappeared for decades. 3D films are now taken for granted by children of today, such is the pace of technology. But now 3D is finally being applied to healthcare and the infinite possibilities of 3D medicines, treatments and the pharmaceutical industry generally are something grown-ups are getting really excited about. 

Indeed, 3D technology is shaping the future of the life sciences and pharma industry, and recently its impact on the wider healthcare landscape is beginning to be felt – we are at the dawn of a new age. 

Printed pills

The development of 3D printed medicines is seen by industry insiders as representing a major change in how the pharma industry delivers drugs to patients. 

Simon Shen, CEO of 3D printer brand, XYZprinting, thinks that 3D printing of pills will allow for personalised medicines which address the needs of different patients. 

“The true advantage of 3D printing in pharmaceuticals is a capacity for personalisation. 3D printing can tailor the content and size of drugs to a patient’s needs, as their condition progresses,” he said.

“The pharmaceutical industry will likely become far more individually tailored and thereby more effective. The ability for pharmacies to print prescriptions on demand will be the one of the most significant shifts that this technology will bring to the healthcare landscape, impacting on costs of production and creating a deeper understanding between practitioners and patients,” he added.

According to Design Engineer Jeremy Kooyman, of Cambridge Design Partnership, precision printing of pharmaceutical products will “fundamentally change how patients and payers interact with their pharmacists and the healthcare system”. 

“Rather than a one-pill-fits-all approach, a pharmacist could modify a blueprint to tailor a treatment for a patient’s body mass or gene profile, while customising the shape and taste to encourage dosing compliance,” he elaborated. “You could even imagine combining multiple medicinal products together to reduce the number of pills a patient would need to take, drastically reducing the potential for under/overdoses, missed doses, and incorrect doses – all of which are linked with a startling rate of mortality in the developed world.”


The future for 3D printing is taking us into a new era, although there is still some way to go: “In the longer term 3D printing offers the possibility of printing biological implants, or even entire replacement organs, such as kidneys. This is a little further off, however, and it is still in the proof-of-concept stage,” said Cyan Collier, Innovations Director of Incuna.

Collier adds that 3D printing additionally offers improvements in areas such as prosthetics and replacements for plaster casts and braces, in the short term. 

“For example, a 3D printed plastic lattice cast will be lightweight and allow a patient with a broken arm to take showers with their cast. This technology is pretty much ready to go, and it is just a matter of time before we start seeing it entering mainstream use,” he explained.

Holographic imaging

Edinburgh-based Holoxica is helping to develop a prototype holographic 3D video representation to visualise medical images from CT, MRI and ultrasound scanners. The display is able to create 3D images in mid-air, allowing doctors, consultants and surgeons to visualise scans live. This is expected to lead to better outcomes for patients, including faster diagnosis, improved treatment and better quality surgery.

The technology addresses the visualisation of 3D volumetric data from medical scanning devices, such as ultrasounds and MRIs. Driven by the need to deliver faster, more efficient and cost-effective healthcare, these devices have increasingly appeared in hospitals and medical centres over the past two decades, while their performance has also continued to improve.

Holoxica’s CEO Javid Khan insists that this application of 3D technology will have a positive impact on outcomes and patient experience within the NHS: “The benefits of the holographic volumetric display include quicker interpretation of 3D scan images, faster surgery and better quality surgical procedures,” he explained. “In addition, it will be possible to educate patients and provide them with a more intuitive overview of complex procedures.”

Medical professionals and students will also benefit, through teaching, training, diagnostics, planning and live surgery. Holoxica is currently selling static digital holograms to university medical schools, teaching hospitals and medical imaging research centres. 

“We have already holographically imaged the entire human anatomy, plus all of the organs from all modalities; CT, MRI and ultrasound sonography.”

According to Khan, the UK is currently lagging behind on developing this technology – Holoxica is the only commercial group working in this area. 

“There are a smattering of university groups working on this, including Cambridge University. Most of the research is being conducted by the US military, and groups in Asia [Japan, China and Korea], where next generation holographic 3D technology is enshrined in their national R&D programmes,” he said. “We have no such programmes here in the UK or Europe – most of our activities tend to mirror things happening elsewhere.” 


Dassault Systèmes have an entire division devoted to 3D life sciences and CSO Reza Sadeghi is optimistic about the potential of organ production: “Major advances have been made in the 3D printing of human tissue. Organovo has commercialised 3D-printed human liver tissue for preclinical drug discovery testing and progressive research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. This has led to 3D printed human kidneys and has paved a path for 3D printing of more complex organs in the future, such as the heart.” 

It is now possible to create, from standard medical imaging – such as an MRI – a 3D patient-specific ‘digital twin’ 3D model of the heart for detailed analysis, which could lead to much more personalised medicine.

“Conditions, such as mitral valve regurgitation, can be reproduced in 3D silicone,” enthused Sadeghi. “Treatment options can be simulated digitally to identify the most effective treatment.” 

It is becoming clear that 3D has gone from being a disposable novelty to a highly-sophisticated healthcare reality which has could save millions of lives. For pharma, it is taking us to another dimension – quite literally. 





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Light shade: The two sides of pharma revealed

by John Pinching 3. May 2016 11:25


Most people don’t know it, but pharma is everywhere.


It’s in our films, books, music, and even in our medicine cabinets. Culturally, pharma is as ubiquitous as tea or Apple.

When five-time grand slam champion, Maria Sharapova, recently stood before a lectern – and a stunned global audience – to perform a toe-curling, hopelessly stage-managed ‘confession’, it placed pharma firmly on the front page. Not that anyone outside pharma would necessarily see it.

While the Russian superstar strained every sinew to look sad-eyed, doleful, apologetic and – most challengingly – human, most of the world saw this as simply a ‘doping scandal’ or, even, a tennis story. But, actually, and intriguingly, this was a pharma tale of our times.

Sharapova’s failed drug test had been the result of the heart condition drug, Mildronate (aka Meldonium), being found, during a routine blood test in Australia. The discovery, its consequences and the sequence of events – taking place over a decade – leading up to the exposure, made it a story firmly entrenched in a bizarre healthcare labyrinth.

It should be pointed out that the medication in question has been, historically, used to help people with heart conditions to recover; usually over a six-week prescribed course. The treatment provides improved blood flow; essential to a patient’s survival. Why, then, was an incredibly fit, young athlete taking a heart condition medication, since 2006!? 

Let’s assume, for a second, that it was being used to speed up recovery times, in a person without a heart condition – that a legitimate, legal pharmaceutical product was being used for something other than which it was intended, in order to achieve results it was not designed for. Some might suggest that this is doping in its purest form – enlisting a synthetic solution to the age-old problem of exhaustion. Or, in this case, perhaps, the age-old problem of Serena Williams (Sharapova has an ego-sapping, ‘heartbreaking’ head-to-head of 19-2 against her). Enough to drive anyone to a ‘meld-down’, you might say.

There were also some fascinating linguistics used in order to yield public sympathy. In her press conference Sharapova made it clear that this was a drug prescribed by her ‘family doctor’. To the untrained ear this was – not a fabricated and cynical PR stunt – but
a claim that, just like you and I, she has to book an appointment with the 'family doctor', wait in the family doctor’s ghastly waiting room, while reading the family doctor’s well-thumbed copies of Bella, from 2009. She’s just like you and I, making the pilgrimage to the family doctor, and picking up a prescription from the family doctor. What could be more normal?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a globe-trotting team of fully-qualified, full-time health professionals looking after my every nutritional and medicinal need. 

This story will run, and it won’t end well for Sharapova, but it does serve to remind us – industry folk – that we are often woven into the fabric of mainstream stories, but the true message is lost in a welter of gossip and ‘victims’. Don’t let research, development, science and the thousands of miles that representatives travelled in order to change lives, get in the way of a good story! The truth is that Meldonium was not created to win Wimbledon, but it has altered the course
of history for thousands of patients.


Beyond the tabloid headlines, UK pharma is in a period of revolution, while re-establishing itself as one of the most pioneering industries on the planet. In spite of the scientific and technological breakthroughs, however, it is unlikely that any young people are kept awake at night by the prospect of a career in pharma, let alone dreaming of transforming millions of lives in the process. 

For a complex set of reasons – not least the draconian restrictions imposed on pharma by governing bodies – we have been conditioned not to ask ‘how and why Aunt Edna has been able to live until 126’. Indeed, I doubt that one per cent of all university leavers even know that a job in the commercial side of pharmaceutical products evens exists. 

People are still more likely to ‘land’ in pharma, due to an unusual set of circumstances – like glancing at a job ad in someone else’s newspaper, on the train – or simply ‘by accident’. In my experience, hardly anyone works at a pharma company by design. Given that the modus operandi for industry is – in essence – to keep people alive, that’s quite weird. 

If people don’t really know what pharma is, it’s a bit like not knowing what a computer does, or never having heard of space travel. Although pharma has much to do when it comes to public image, for the people entering industry – by hook or by crook – or those already ensconced in it, a glorious new chapter is being embarked upon; days are there to be seized, as the ‘sales template’ is dumped into non-recyclable waste, and the prospect of a role, in which individuality can thrive, emerges. 

Digital is taking off – a little later than expected – and the production line of identikit representatives has been shut down for good. In the brave new pharma universe, most representatives are tech-savvy, disease-aware product gurus, with a penchant for engaging communication. It is no longer possible to rock up to a doctor’s surgery and rely on auto-pilot. Modern medicine is accelerating at such speed that presentations can undergo fundamental changes, and compelling additions, at a moment’s notice. 

Someone turning into a hospital carpark, in Ipswich or Hull or Basingstoke, may suddenly be confronted with real world data, on their iPad, which has materialised from an extensive trial in Cape Town, New York or Beijing. Someone in Milton Keynes may be pacing towards a commissioner’s office when they suddenly receive word that a cancer drug has been approved. These factors will need to be candidly incorporated into the discussion and can – quite literally – mean the difference between life and death. 

Star Medical’s Polly Appleby is probably better qualified than anyone to observe the significant movement in the force, and how pharma has become a different solar system to the one she first entered, over a quarter of a century ago.

“Our customers’ environments have changed,” she told Pf Magazine. “They’re taking on additional responsibilities, beyond patient care. This has led the industry to shift its focus, from volume, to account management. Using sophisticated targeting, it is now essential to put the best people in the right places.” 

“It’s also much harder to see customers,” she added “So hiring resourceful, determined and persistent people, who can deliver value, that’s tailored to each customer’s unique circumstances, is critical. Sales people are working larger territories, and using their initiative, to deliver more, with less. There’s a greater sense of accountability.”  

Polly also thinks that the future will yield more change. “Our focus on the environment will drive more demand for outsourced and syndicated teams. As a Regional Business Manager with the Star Medical Syndicated Team, I’ve helped them build a talented, positive and agile resource – informed by sophisticated technology – which can flex, in order to optimise the strongest environments.”


So, as we begin to begin to fully comprehend the possibilities of a neo-pharma odyssey – in which very different individuals roam – flexible pharma freestylers are already offering bespoke packages, encouraging commissioners to confidently open their doors. With the possible exception of Maria Sharapova’s ‘family doctor’, that is. 





‘Continuity of change’ conundrum at NHS England

by Claudia Rubin 27. April 2016 03:00


Our resident political guru deconstructs the ‘continuity of change’ conundrum at NHS England. 

Does NHS England stand alone as the most changeable of organisations? With a budget of over £116bn, we should, perhaps, expect the government to oversee an appropriate mix of continuity and change. 

Lately, the long list of additions to senior management, and clinical teams, seems to suggest another wholesale change to decision-making at the top of the NHS. Many of the highly-regarded figures, now exiting, were apparently making good strides in their roles, but now they’re off to pastures new. There is often no clarity on the strategic decision-making behind these developments – it’s troubling for those of us that want transparency in our public institutions. 

Whether there are meaningful trends to be identified, depends on one’s own reading of the personalities and politics behind the changes. With many of the senior roles undertaken on a part-time basis – as occupants retain second jobs elsewhere – the extent to which they are able to deliver on their targets, remains to be seen. 

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, seems to place much store on continuity. Indeed, it was one of his ‘guiding principles’ outlined in the 2016/17 Business Plan. 
But as we lurch ever further into the NHS financial crisis, does continuity allow scope for required change? As Kings Fund Director, Chris Ham, noted in his recent Guardian piece, the crisis presented by hospitals, which are running up growing financial deficits (£2.3bn, with three quarters of hospitals and other providers in the red), may mean the NHS needs something more fundamental. 

Melanie Philips, in The Times, even suggested the abandoning of the ‘deceitful’ NHS model, looking instead at social insurance schemes, such as those predominant in Europe. 

Ultimately, the public must be asked to consider these options. In the meantime, we should engage with NHS England’s new Business Plan, closely examine the incoming personnel, and use our stake in their success to hold leaders to account. In order to do that, let’s find out more about them. 

The Famous Five: New faces at the NHS rock face 

Dr Jonathan Fielden 
Director for Specialised Commissioning 
Dr Fielden has enjoyed a meteoric rise; through anaesthetics, into health policy. Mind you, rationing the budget for specialised services – while various technologies vie for a share – is not a job many would want. Dr Fielden will also serve as a deputy medical director to Sir Bruce Keogh. He certainly represents the one element of operations that have been continuous – change. 

Cally Palmer CBE 
National Cancer Director 
Although she retains her current role, as Chief Executive of the Royal Marsden NHS Trust, Palmer leads the implementation of the NHS Cancer Taskforce’s five year strategy for cancer care improvement. In her new position, she takes the lead on new cancer Vanguards, using outcomes-based commissioning to redesign care, and the patient experience. 

Dr Arvind Madan 
Director of Primary Care 
As a practising GP, Dr Madan retains his regular clinical commitment at his London practice. He also provides clinical leadership for the transformation of primary care provision, which includes stabilising existing services, reform and modernisation of the primary care provider model, and supporting the development of co-commissioning, with clinical commissioning groups. 

Pauline Philip 
National Urgent & Emergency Care Director 
Philip will retain her role as Chief Executive at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust. She will be working with Professor Keith Willett to provide national leadership for the delivery of the Urgent and Emergency Care Review, and aspects of the NHS Five Year Forward View. Patients are spending over four hours in A&E – this is a challenging part-time role. 

Matthew Swindells 
National Director for Commissioning Operations and Information 
Swindells has 18 years of operational and senior management experience, in the NHS. He was also Director General at the Department of Health, and led the health team at the Cabinet Office. He takes over from Dame Barbara Hakin, who oversaw the development of the new commissioning architecture of the NHS, and the establishment of CCGs. 

These senior figures are now complemented by the appointment of 18 national clinical directors – and seven associated clinical directors – among whom, a number of trends emerge. Firstly, no one can deny that, despite the record low morale of its medical staff, NHSE is still able to attract top talent. Secondly, much of this talent will have, or even take on, second jobs and – like their predecessors – find their time stretched. Thirdly, the appointments do seem to reflect the growing burdens, on the NHS, of obesity, diabetes and an ageing population, perhaps at the expense of less obvious challenges, such as harnessing innovation. 


Replacing Sean Duffy, as NCD for cancer, is Professor Chris Harrison who, like his predecessor, has a background in obstetrics and gynaecology, but has also occupied public health and cancer directorship roles. He has taken this role on a part-time basis, while simultaneously becoming Executive Medical Director, at The Christie hospital, 
in Manchester. He has a number of key tasks, as he supports Cally Palmer, not least making significant improvements in cancer outcomes. The 62-day cancer treatment target has been missed for 21 of the last 24 months, while CDF reform is in total disarray. It’s fair to say that Prof. Harrison has a bewildering maze to navigate. 

Mental Health 

There have also been multiple appointments in mental health – perhaps the first high-visible sign of some substance to the otherwise farcical ‘parity of esteem’ claim. Again, the appointment of Prof. Tim Kendall must be seen as a coup. His roles at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UCL and Sheffield NHS Trust, give him the clinical, and policy, experience required, in a position that acts as a bridge between both. With the loss of Dr David Bateman, championing neurology, Prof. Kendall’s role, together with that of the other mental health appointments, is welcome for a field that lacks policy, industry and scientific focus. His award winning 2004 paper on selective publishing, by the drug industry – in terms of antidepressants – may indicate his intention to encourage scientific rigour, as well as triggering some nerves among pharma. 

Older People 

It must be presumed that the gap in clinical leadership, created by the dissolution of Martin McShane’s role in long-term conditions (LTCs), is now incorporated into the two posts of NCD and associate NCD for Older People. With people aged over 85 becoming the fastest growing section of our population, and old people’s frailty now considered an LTC, new appointments must have credibility. Dr Martin Vernon, as NCD, will be supported by associate NCD and GP, Dr Dawn Moody. They will be largely preoccupied with the development of new care models, and the ever-closer integration of health and social care. Dr Vernon has strong links to Manchester, and could well 
be influenced by what is unfolding there. 

Crunch time 

With the national clinical directors now in post, these reforms – first trailed back in November – may not be as far reaching as first predicted. Although NHS England has reduced the number, from 23 to 18, they have also recruited seven new ‘associate’ NCDs, and have not made any substantial changes to the structuring of directors. The planned introduction of a three-tiered system, categorising each NCD, and their remit, did not materialise – a relief to those therapy areas that would have been de-prioritised, such as cardiac, stroke, respiratory and musculoskeletal medicine. 
The degree, therefore, to which Simon Stevens has managed to ‘slim down’ the organisation, cut costs and create ‘a more coherent structure’, is questionable. To what extent these leadership and structural changes signify fundamental continuity, you decide. Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose. 

Claudia Rubin is a Government Affairs Strategist at Decideum. Go to decideum.com



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Pf Company Focus: ProStrakan

by Admin 18. March 2016 11:15

A rapidly growing specialty pharmaceutical company

ProStrakan Group plc is a rapidly growing specialty pharmaceutical company engaged in the development and commercialisation of prescription medicines for the treatment of unmet therapeutic needs in key EU territories and the US. A less well known independent company just a few years ago ProStrakan is now a subsidiary of Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co. Ltd. (KHK) and is making its mark on the international stage.

Being part of KHK means ProStrakan has access to a substantial product pipeline. KHK are working to discover and create new ways to improve wellness and treat disease with a special focus on oncology, nephrology, immunology and CNS.

Both KHK and ProStrakan are growing rapidly with an innovative portfolio of products and driven by a highly motivated global team. The corporate group thrives on responding flexibly to changes in local markets and external environments whilst continuing to open up business opportunities.

The focus however remains firmly on providing patient centred medicines helping improve patient lives in all the key markets in which they operate.

Sajid Babariya, UK Country General Manager

ProStrakan was established in 1995 as a small pharmaceutical company based in Galashiels, Scotland. The development and growth in the company over the last 18 years has transformed it into a flourishing international enterprise and a member of KHK. The aim is to become a Global Speciality Pharmaceutical company providing medicines to help patients all over the world.

The success of the company has arisen due to the way in which it focuses on ensuring the customer receives a first class service and a quality product. This is still very much the case today. ProStrakan is focused on helping to improve the lives of patients. This principle helps us from the recruiting stage to the delivery and value proposition on our products.

One aspect of our business that continues to evolve is in the delivery of our medicines to patients. Our portfolio of products is changing and will continue to expand.

In the UK alone, we have launched 12 new products in the last 13 years and this pattern is set to continue long into the future. We have a strong pipeline with over 30 products, many of which are in phase 2 and 3. The majority of these are within the specialities of oncology, nephrology, immunology and CNS. As an adjunct to that, partnership opportunities such as the one we have recently signed with Fuji Film will allow us to enter into different markets and gain access to products such as biosimilars. Furthermore, in 2012, we had 10 new products enter clinical trials.

ProStrakan offers an exciting environment in which to work where each and every employee is highly valued; our mission is to help improve patient lives and we are passionate about this philosophy in all that we do.

Ross Moat, UK National Sales Manager

Maintaining ProStrakan’s position as an international specialty pharmaceutical company is an exciting challenge; full of ideas and ambition for the future, we are determined to continue to play our part in achieving this aim.

Our sales force is the pride of the company, underpinned by a culture of mutual support, whereby work is also fun and rewarding. Our sales team live and breathe our vision: keeping the patient at the centre of activities.

Undoubtedly our success in the UK is due to our people, who reach out via healthcare professionals with the sole aim of improving patients’ lives. To support these teams we place significant emphasis on implementing an optimum level of development; this is achieved by coaching from the management team or via our tailored training programmes. These are designed to ensure everyone in the business is fully prepared to help provide solutions to healthcare professionals within our disease areas.

Gail Long, Senior Medical Representative

I’m proud to be a representative with ProStrakan. I am fortunate to be able to promote three excellent products, all of which increase the quality of life for our patients on a daily basis. Knowing that I can make a difference to someone’s life brings me great satisfaction - it’s what I love most about my job.

The company is highly patient focused, putting patients at the heart of everything we do and our product portfolio is growing, spanning many different therapeutic areas.

Training and development is paramount; by investing in increasing our knowledge base through learning, we can continue to improve. Our training is tailored to individual need, ensuring we have a clear, focused plan of action.

The culture at ProStrakan is open and transparent, with a family atmosphere. We encourage the sharing of ‘best practice’ ideals and an open acknowledgement of success.

Our values and loyalty play a vital part in our daily roles. It is a pleasure to work for a company where everyone matters and feels valued.


Career Centre | Features

Pf Company Focus: A hybrid NHS

by Admin 19. February 2016 16:08

The new NHS demands fresh skills and a fresh approach from industry. Naveed Babariya discusses how companies can shift from selling to negotiating.

It is said that the one constant in life is change, and that couldn’t be truer for the NHS as it stands today. Be prepared for a permanent revolution. Gone are the days when you could call on your best customers every couple of months, with a callback to determine their prescribing habits regarding your product since your last call.

So many things have changed and so fast. With the dissipation of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts and the birth of Clinical Commissioning Groups, the question arises: who exactly are your customers?

This isn’t like other NHS reforms where, over time, people get used to their new titles and settle back down again into their day jobs. Rather, the new system will allow changes to occur more frequently and rapidly.

As an adjunct to this, your customers may change, possibly on a more frequent basis and with evolving responsibilities.

With pressures on pharmaceutical companies about pricing from the new PPRS scheme, and private companies showing interest in delivering services for the NHS, there are going to be definite winners in this race – namely those companies that can demonstrate flexibility and adapt to change early. One thing is certain: the pharmaceutical industry will struggle to negotiate with clients who are disorientated, or who are the Richard Bransons of the NHS and well ahead of the game. So what is the answer?

Deals, not sales

There needs to be a dual-edged approach to the NHS reforms. First, the industry needs to recognise, understand and adapt to the new NHS. There are several phases of change management for any of us who go through a major change in our lives. These phases usually take the form of initial denial, anger, confusion and depression; then we embrace and adapt to the change, and acceptance follows; and eventually a new-found confidence arises.

Once a pharmaceutical company recognises where it is in the change management cycle, it can move onto the second phase of adapting to the NHS reforms. This is where the customer interface with the representative takes on a whole new meaning. Unless the customers’ needs are placed first, you may as well leave the room. It is no longer a quick sell that can occur in a six-minute call, but rather moving on to a new and more mature level of communication.

Selling skills are a thing of the past and razor-sharp negotiating skills are now required. Each call has to result in a win-win situation: the pharmaceutical representative and company have to gain a result, but more importantly the customer has to gain from their investment of time.

Listen to learn

The industry, company and representative need to be seen as a partner whereby the sales of your drugs are a by-product of your call.

What is important, and wins hands down in any industry, is putting people first and business second. A whole new dimension of skill-sets has to emerge in order to succeed in this hybrid NHS.

Understanding customer needs has never taken pole position as much as it does today. Think back to a time when you felt understood. How good did that feel? You probably felt motivated to do more than was strictly required for that person who understood you. Now imagine you are the customer who was listened to and understood by a representative. Why wouldn’t you want to provide something back for the representative, giving a win-win result? The key is that listening to understand and listening to respond are light years apart in terms of outcome.


Naveed Babariya is the Director of Synergize Training Solutions. To learn more about how your company or sales professionals can adapt to the NHS reforms, contact Naveed on 07817 218094 or 0845 116 8094 or visit www.synergizetraining.com

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Career Centre | Features

A good catch

by Emma 22. January 2016 15:11

a good catch

Keeping hold of key members of staff has always been an issue for successful organisations. To avoid head-hunters, Anton Franckeiss explains valuable measures to increase employee retention and satisfaction.

Although the pharmaceutical industry is one that consumers tend to depend on to provide instant cures or magical remedies to our all too human frailties, it actually operates to a longer timeframe. Any new treatment for our remedies may take only seconds to swallow, but will have been in development for many years, and possibly even decades. But despite its foundation in long-term projects, the industry also experiences higher than average staff turnover rates – a circumstance that the industry shares with IT and financial services. While the requirement for specialist knowledge and professional skills is a common factor across all three of these sectors that should not be ignored, human resource (HR) professionals within the industry should resist the temptation to believe that there is a single cure that can be prescribed and administered.

Although the analogy may be a simplistic one, especially in the industry context, adopting a holistic view that sees retention rates as one of the vital signs of the ‘patient’ (ie the workforce of each pharmaceutical company) may be helpful. Recent surveys, both by Pharmaceutical Field and by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, have shown a slowing of staff turnover rates in the industry. Yet the reasons may be at least partly a reflection of the broader labour market and economy.

In an era of slow economic growth after a sharp recession, employees are seeing redundancies elsewhere – or even closer to home – and may have drawn the conclusion that the metaphorical frying pan might be a happier place to be for the medium-term than the unknown quantity of the metaphorical fire. There is, however, no room for complacency here. If the factors at play are limiting turnover rather than actively encouraging retention, the ‘condition’ could flare up again at short notice depending on movements in the broader economy: a chronic condition, after all, requires monitoring and management to ensure that any chances of it becoming acute are minimised.

Road to recovery

The analogy of a chronic condition, however, should be challenged. A continuing situation of poor retention does not imply that this either must simply be lived with or will inevitably get worse. There is no reason that the prognosis should be gloomy, although a combination therapy approach will be required and the regime will need to be maintained for some time before improvements in the underlying condition are secured. The key to success lies in the depth of understanding that the doctor – in this case the HR functions of companies in the industries – can acquire about their patient.

Without research, dialogue and communication, companies can too easily assume that they understand the retention factor priorities of their workforce, while the employees actually see the outlook rather differently. A 2006 survey by Talent Drain, for example, showed that employees rank ‘cooperation’ as the second most important factor, while employers listed this in ninth place.

Employers also typically overstate the impact of pay and financial rewards, while underestimating the importance to employees of opportunities for personal growth. What appears as a mission critical role contribution through one end of the telescope looks more like one component of an on-going personal biography from the other. In an industry that embraces great diversity of roles – from sales to scientific specialists – there is likely to be a similar diversity of outlook – the intelligent response is to seek understanding rather than to assume that a single remedy can be applied in all cases. Feedback to HR from line management in different operational areas could be helpful here, so keep lines of dialogue open.

The right prescription

Employee motivation and engagement requires similar treatment; although recent surveys say suggest turnover is reduced, they also suggest what an earlier Pharmaceutical Field article, called The Fear Factor, highlighted. Pro-actively seeking to increase engagement will enhance the chances of turning a cure into a preventative approach. The highly engaged will be less easily tempted away when external economic factors change. Again, an appreciation of potential complexity will be helpful. Scientific staff may be balancing a need to supervise and manage others and commercial encouragement from the organisation to develop their leadership skills with their personal commitment to their professional discipline. Acknowledging such a potential conflict of factors will be a far more productive way of identifying motivational approaches than failing to address it.

There are also industry-specific challenges to address, one of which was highlighted in an interview between the BBC’s Evan Davis and GSK Chief Executive Andrew Witty in the former’s recent book, Made in Britain: “One of the things we say to our scientists is that you have to be comfortable with failure. [There are] great scientists in this company who will never succeed in their entire career … Of 10,000 new molecules that we might synthesise, so that we might create 10,000 possible new drugs, probably one will be a drug.”

Strategies that promote innovation – the use of multi-disciplinary project teams where each can make their own distinct contribution and gain inspiration from other – can help here in other ways. But also allow staff with specialist skills to receive peer, as well as line management, feedback on the value of their contribution. It was a point by Alistair Flaister in a People Management article, Organisational learning: The social network, when he made the important point that: “The real engine of creativity and organisational success is to be found in internal networks of friendship and collaboration.”

Line managers have other contributions to make, not least in listening acutely and in building a supportive and encouraging team culture. It’s a point underlined in the 2010 Work Foundation report, Exceeding Expectations: the principles of outstanding leadership, which identified two elements common to the approaches of outstanding leaders in creating a working environment:

The first is the need to develop an open and supportive atmosphere to create the conditions for trust and respect, and the second is to ensure the workplace enabled success and satisfaction.

Part of the latter element may require support from HR in terms of fresh thinking. Depending on the severity of the case, HR might also ponder the benefits of making a referral to a specialist consultant. Helping specialist staff to make the transition to a leadership role is not simply a progression or promotion through a series of levels of leadership. It requires them to make a fundamental transition from development of a professional discipline to that of a broader organisational and commercial role. It also requires the transfer and application of new behaviours that challenge and enhance their performance and contribution. Two other factors that The Work Foundation found as common to outstanding leaders is a willingness to be flexible in their approach to process, and a willingness to adapt roles to give individuals the maximum opportunity to achieve personal growth and job satisfaction. An organisational willingness to be similarly flexible in role definition and organisational design can support good leaders within the company to deploy this approach successfully.

Never say no

Think of a talented individual that the company should seek to retain, and then imagine how they might feel if they heard the words “I’d love to be more flexible, but I’ve spoken to HR and they said …” It’s also helpful to remain mindful that disengagement is unlikely to be a proactive personal choice – employees are more likely to become disengaged as a reaction.

Ultimately, employee retention is not so much a condition as a symptom. An indicator that employee engagement is low, that opportunities to satisfy personal motivations are too limited, that opportunities for progression are overly limited or unclear, or that employees are not receiving positive feedback on their performance and/or contribution when praise is due. The answer is not to treat the isolated symptom, but to investigate the underlying condition and develop a comprehensive talent management strategy that will systematically improve organisational health. Even in an industry where specialist skills are a key requirement in many roles, an employee value proposition and a recruitment strategy that identifies employees with a strong cultural fit are still important requirements. Any industry dependent on innovation and intellectual property should appreciate that human resources are its critical input. And most employees – who will, after all, have chosen to make an application to join the organisation and done so in good faith – are ultimately looking for something relatively straightforward: regular reminders of several good reasons to stay. That, of course, is easy to say, but there’s something positive to be said for making it easy to do.

Anton Franckeiss is the Managing Director of ASK Europe.

Working like clockwork

by Emma 20. November 2015 09:38


For decades analysts have been trying to find the perfect formula for workplace satisfaction. Dr R K Powar explains how organisational behaviour can bring together essential cogs in the workplace to improve levels of productivity.

All businesses from the smallest enterprise to the largest of corporations consist of people designed to fulfil human objectives, and organisational behaviour seeks to understand how best to do this. Therefore, organisational behaviour can be described as the study of how individuals, groups and structure affect and are affected by behaviour within organisations, for the purpose of applying such knowledge towards improving an organisation’s effectiveness.

Management as a discipline, along with other disciplines, has been around for centuries. However, serious interest in the study of management did not emerge until the turn of the twentieth century, making organisational behaviour a relatively new subject. Also, the initial players interested in studying organisations were economists, who generally looked at management practices as efficient and effective, focusing on economic policies and industrial structures, rather than the internal structure of organisations.

A brief history

The Scientific Management Approach: this was developed by F W Taylor, who worked on the assumption that human beings are largely motivated by money. Taylor advised that managers pay monetary incentives to efficient workers, making employees work harder and faster, reducing them to machines. As this approach did not take account of the human facet of labour, it was heavily criticised and today is considered inadequate.

The Bureaucratic Approach: while the scientific approach worked on the interaction between workers and the task, this theory focused on devising the best organisational structure for workers and managers. Max Weber, the theory’s most prominent advocate, proposed a ‘bureaucratic form’ of structure which he thought would work for all organisations.

The Hawthorne Studies: The above two approaches were heavily criticised as they failed to take into consideration that the human aspect was important in the workplace. Whilst the Hawthorne Studies have had their share of criticism, they had a dramatic input in the field of organisational behaviour, highlighting that workers are influenced by social factors and the behaviour of the individual is influenced by the group.

Over the years, the study and practice of behaviour in the workplace has developed from initial human resource theory to the system approach and on to organisational behaviour, which has grown through creating alliances with disciplines such as leadership and anthropology. Today organisational behaviour is highly influential in the business world with practitioners like Peter Drucker and Peter Senge, who turned academic research into business principles – please refer to the article on the concept of the Learning Organisation in the April 2010 edition of Pharmaceutical Field.

The importance to pharma

Organisational behaviour is important to help us learn about ourselves and how to deal with others. It needs to be noted that people are complex and, whilst they have a need to acquire, individuals are multi-faceted and work for several reasons, such as the need to grow and develop and bond with others.

The pharmaceutical industry, like all industries, is in a constant state of flux faced with business competiveness and the need for increased networking and globalisation – where there is a greater need for individuals to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultural values. Consequently, the pharmaceutical industry needs to be increasingly concerned with organisational behaviour, as it needs all employees to perform well to sustain success and in a nutshell become more productive.

At a practical level, these are some of the advantages offered by organisational behaviour:

Having more self-insight and perceptual skills to bring about the desired outcomes: The various facets of organisational behaviour can be used by all of us to understand our own feelings and behaviours. Starting from the premise of understanding ourselves is important in helping us understand others. The concepts of organisational behaviour can be used to bring about the desired outcome behaviour in others by sometimes modifying our feelings and behaviours towards others.

The ability to do this would be beneficial in all walks of life, and especially in the pharmaceutical industry. For example:

  • Manager to employee: Having a greater awareness/understanding and appreciation will help bosses modify their management style to lead their staff appropriately to attain goals and hence become more productive.
  • Motivate self and others: Organisations that perform well have a culture that promotes ongoing growth, learning and development. At the core of organisational behaviour paradigms rests the notion of how to bring out the best in others, so developing a good understanding of the principles of organisational behaviour and putting them into practice can help with motivation.
  • Managers and employees’ interaction with external customers and stakeholders: Having a good understanding of organisational behaviour can help managers develop a better understanding of processes. This in turn can help managers interact with the various individuals outside the organisation, such as suppliers, competitors and customers. Managers can gain a better understanding of the environment in which they are working by using organisational behaviour to help them appreciate how and why things happen, giving them the advantage of being ahead in today’s competitive environment.

The ability to analyse situations correctly: A good understanding of the concepts of organisational behaviour can help staff and managers analyse situations correctly. All too often misunderstandings arise when situations haven’t been correctly understood. This can prove useful in the following ways:

  • Avoid/manage conflict: A small amount of conflict can prove useful sometimes. However, where possible, if it’s likely to be destructive it needs to be avoided in the first instance, or be managed appropriately. With the sheer size of most pharmaceutical companies, the number of employees and the numerous relationships with the various stakeholders the probability of conflict arising can be quite high. Therefore, being able to curb this is of significant importance for the human relations and media departments.
  • Better observational skills: This can be extremely useful for sales teams that need to be able to pick up on the buying signals, deal with obstructions and work with the complex set of interrelationships and dynamics that exist within the NHS.
  • Recruitment and retention of skilled staff: A great deal of time and expenditure is involved in recruiting the right staff and the majority of the techniques and methods to do this employ organisational behaviour concepts in the form of questionnaires, psychological profiling and role-playing exercises at interviews. People work for several reasons and a better grasp of organisational behaviour concepts could be applied to retain staff, instead of developing them and then allowing them to leave and take the skills and knowledge they have gained elsewhere.

Limitations of organisational behaviour

  • Having an understanding of organisational behaviour can help in situations of conflict but not eradicate them completely.
  • Organisational behaviour is resistant to change due to human cognitive processes and defensive routines which can lead to ‘behavioural biases’, where the focus is on satisfying employees but overlooking the objectives of an organisation.
  • The law of diminishing returns also applies to organisational behaviour: as this needs to be practised to an optimum point, when that point is exceeded there is a decline in returns. This highlights that organisational effectiveness is achieved when all variables work together.
  • In some cases the knowledge and techniques of organisational behaviour could be used in a manipulative manner.

The future of organisational behaviour

Organisational behaviour has evolved over the years: initially from the need to create productive organisations, followed by a philosophical desire by many people to create more humanistic workplaces. Although organisational behaviour has certain limitations, hopefully by building a better working climate for people there are many advantages which should have longterm effects, not only in the quality of an individual’s life, but in improved harmony among people and among organisations.

The future success of organisational behaviour revolves around the related processes of theory development, research and managerial practice in areas such as communication between and among foreign business operations, cultural differences and motivation techniques in different countries, career development in the global economy, and the differences in leadership and decisionmaking practices in various countries.

The challenge faced by the pharmaceutical industry is to employ organisational behaviour to bring the various stakeholders and actors involved with different values together to create processes by which it can be efficient and effective in exceeding goals and objectives.

Dr R K Powar is the founder of R11OSY CONSULTANTS.

IBM plans to ‘transform personal health’ with Apple, J&J and Medtronic pacts

by Admin 14. April 2015 09:04

Computer giant IBM is expanding its presence in healthcare with the launch of the Watson Health unit, extending its partnership with Apple and inking deals with Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic.

The first agreement will involve using IBM’s cloud services and analytics expertise to support health data entered by customers in apps using Apple's ResearchKit and HealthKit frameworks. The move “will arm medical researchers with a secure, open data storage solution, as well as access to IBM's most sophisticated data analytics capabilities”, Watson Health argues.

John Kelly, head of IBM research and solutions portfolio, said the pact “will enable doctors and researchers to draw on real-time insights from consumer health and behavioural data at a scale never before possible”. IBM will also build a suite of wellness apps for companies using HealthKit designed to help them work with their employees to “better manage their health needs across acute diseases to general fitness”.

In tandem with the Apple alliance, Johnson & Johnson is teaming up with IBM to create targeted intelligent coaching systems using HealthCloud and Watson “to model and apply the best medical evidence to patient interventions and communications”. Devices giant Medtronic is also partnering with the computer firm, saying it will look to deliver “highly personalised care management solutions for diabetic patients, drawing from an IBM insights platform that will receive and analyse data from medical devices”.

IBM has also acquired two health technology firms, Explorys and Phytel.

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