Hurrah for those brave individuals across the water who are planning to become involved in a mass “overdose” involving homeopathic remedies this week. Doubtless some suicide patient groups will be up in arms about this eye-catching campaign but we love its powerfully subtle messaging.
Readers with an eye on trends will know that there has been rep force carnage in the United States lately. The reasons for this are alarmingly familiar - physicians' weariness with sales calls combined with the sheer overabundance of reps detailing each drug makers' various products. Worse still, American medical schools and teaching hospitals have begun unveiling restrictive new rules for pharma rep visits. It has all meant there is a growing appetite for solutions and new strategies.
Don’t tell your kids but Nemo could soon be on his way to the lab. Or one of his equally colourful pals at least. Harvard researchers have that zebrafish offer an economical and efficient animal model to test new compounds for sleep therapy. The first job they are (ahem) lined up for is to take a lead role in the development of new drugs for the €5 billion market, replacing traditional drug-screening methodologies.
I hate my washing machine. It’s reliable, boasts a worthy energy rating and is excellent for cleaning clothes. But no-one at the shop told me this little appliance would spend its entire life nagging me to empty it at the end of every cycle. It doesn’t help that its escalating reminder is one of the most annoying high-pitched beeps known to man. Forgive me then if I roll my eyes skyward as I deliver news that researchers in the US are now testing nagging pill bottles. The ‘GlowCap’ (pictured) is a high-tech top that fits on to a standard pill container and emits a pulsing orange light when it’s time to take your medicine. That’s clever enough, but what happens if you ignore that reminder is pretty astonishing.
Where have Irish companies been going to source new staff? The answer, of course, is other pharma companies. A witty consultant once observed two rival product managers becoming over-friendly in a social setting at a US cardiology event some years back and coined the phrase ‘medical inter-pollination’. And such trans-company attractions hold true in the employment setting as well. But at least Ireland’s not alone in what some might argue is a rather lazy and unimaginative approach to sourcing new talent. A very recent survey in the US found that 91 per cent of companies there would target other pharma company employees when seeking new staff – in this instance, medical sales reps. More than 83 per cent of responders valued pharma sales experience more than interpersonal skills or business acumen.
The mediacontact.ie website informs me that TG4 programme, Feirm Factor, is back for a second series. The reality show aims to track down Ireland's top farmer. Hosted by Maura Derrane, the programme will pit 15 of Ireland's most talented farmers against one another to see who is an outstanding factor in this field (groan) of employment. I’m told it’s like the X-Factor meets One Man and his Dog, mashing the well worn formats of reality TV into a farm yard setting. The prize is a Range Rover, although the winner should be advised he may have to sell the lower field to pay its annual motor tax and fuel bills.
I’m sure readers will be aware that Irish pharma companies have been busily filling senior market access posts. The task facing recent appointments is certainly challenging and anyone currently struggling to get to grips with who influences who in the Irish health services certainly has my sympathy. Pinpointing key decision makers has always been extremely difficult, particularly so when official structures are constantly shifting. Of course, it could be worse – you could be in working on market access in Russia.
The problems associated with hospital waiting lists are certain to become ever more acute as our economy continues its winding journey down the financial toilet. Only the Greeks appear to be in worse shape, which I’m honest enough to admit is at least some comfort. A recent study by Transparency International cast light on how some Greeks deal with getting a loved one much-needed treatment. They bribe their way in.
Ok, let’s talk about a harsh truth. Dozens of surveys (and quite a few films) have consistently indicated that the pharma sector is not widely trusted by the general public. Several factors are at play here – think Vioxx, Primetime investigations that showing doctors at rugby matches in France, regular drug withdrawals on safety grounds and widely held misgivings about large companies and the pursuit of profit within the realm of an individual’s health. That said, dubbing the sector ‘Big Pharma’ always hit a discordant note with this writer. After all, the only other business to get such a sobriquet is Big Tobacco. Their products give people cancer, and death. Pharma’s products fight cancer and save lives. Odd bedfellows, no?
Hospital managers have been guarding their drug budgets with the tenacity of pit-bulls of late, much to the woe of some patients seeking certain treatments. It’s a shame they aren’t quite as motivated on trimming back other expenditure – such as reducing staff sick day bills and increasing productivity – but them’s the breaks.
Under-pressure hospitals in the UK have come up with an intriguing funding solution that, thankfully, we’re likely to be spared. Companies in Ireland have long been battling the problem of cheap parallel imports but I’ll bet you never thought that institutions such as The Royal Surrey County Hospital were among those involved in the trade?