Mitsubishi Tanabe's Kevin O'Brien on driving unmet needs

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Kevin O'Brien is Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America's new VP of market access. He oversees U.S. market access strategy, payer contracting and reimbursement initiatives for drugs such as Radicava, which became the first FDA-approved ALS drug in more than 20 years this May.

See also: Muscular Dystrophy Association taps Lynn O'Connor Vos as CEO

What's your morning ritual?

I normally wake up by 5 a.m. After catching up on emails, I head to the gym then get ready for work. I'm usually in my office by 6:45 a.m. to start preparing for the day. The office is relatively quiet, so it is great to have time to myself before the busy day starts.

How did you get into the industry?

After graduating from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, I knew I wanted to get a job in sales because that was an area I knew I could excel. Soon after, I landed a pharmaceutical sales rep position. Once I understood the business and how it fit my personality of being ambitious, self-motivated, and goal-oriented, healthcare and helping transform the lives of patients quickly became my passion. After spending over 15 years in field sales, I transitioned into market-access strategy and payer-contracting roles.

I truly believe to do well professionally and personally, [a role] has to be the right fit. I once dated the right girl and for the past 35 years we've been married. Always do what makes you happy.

What is the best part of your job?

I love knowing the work we do helps improve the lives of patients and caregivers. I work with colleagues who are experienced, passionate, and committed toward scientific advancements in the treatment of diseases that have high unmet medical needs, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Collectively, we are proud to bring to market the first treatment for ALS in more than 20 years and bring hope to the ALS community.

I was recently on vacation and a distraught ALS caregiver called me about her husband not being able to get onto the therapy his doctor prescribed. Our team acted fast. Between two of our field reimbursement team members, the president of an infusion company, and an administrator, we were able to facilitate patient access to the therapy at an infusion center of his choice the next day. These moments are what continue to motivate me and excite me about the work we do day-in and day-out.

What is your greatest professional challenge?

It is often hard for me to say “no.” I always make time, whether it is in business, charity work, or my personal life. This means I often do not have much me-time, which is okay since much of my happiness is derived from completing a project or making someone smile.

What is the best career advice you've received?

I've found that it is extremely important to hire people who are committed and passionate about the work they're doing. I also think it is important to know when to delegate and carve out “think time” for yourself.

What recently inspired you?

Watching my team members grow through learning and experience, and finding the pathway to the next stage in their careers. Recently, I received a call from someone I promoted and mentored years ago. It is amazing to hear where he is today. My focus is now even stronger on bringing team members to the next level in their careers.

What are some health gadgets or apps you're currently using?

I enjoy using pedometers and knowing how many steps I walk each day. I've used everything from Nike to Apple to Garmin.

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