A new-found exuberance

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There hasn't been much good news coming out of Pfizer in the past couple of years. Efforts to replace anticipated losses from the looming patent expirations of Lipitor and other products have taken ghastly and much-publicized turns.

At an R&D session less than a year ago, CEO Jeffrey Kindler glowed to analysts over the potential of torcetrapib—particularly its HDL-raising effect—just hours before safety concerns forced Pfizer to pull the plug on clinical trials.

And only last month, another of Pfizer's hopes, Exubera, bit the dust. Pfizer's VP of global research and development, Martin Mackay, had revealed to delegates at the UBS Life Sciences Conference in New York, Sept. 26, that Pfizer was working on two “much smaller” next-generation delivery devices for the product. “There's a good reason it will take many years to nail it,” he said.

Pfizer didn't have many years, however. The project was already hanging around Kindler's neck with the weight of the unwieldy device designed to delivery it. Patients were not inhaling and three weeks later Exubera was laid to rest.

But while Pfizer paints a beleaguered picture in its efforts to bring new products to market, perhaps its future success lies, in part, in forging groundbreaking relationships with physicians.
This month, we reveal how Pfizer came out on top in the 2007 Portrait of a Valued Rep survey by GfK Market Measures (p.38-45). The study asks doctors which companies have the most effective sales reps and Pfizer, which one year ago announced 20% cuts to its force, has reigned for four years in a row.

“It's been a tumultuous year,” says Jake Friedman, VP of sales for Pfizer's Powers Business Unit, “and quite a bit of a hit to the emotional psyche of the field force, as well as the focus of their effectiveness.” But the sales operation responded, and while reps are not generally docs' favorite animals, Pfizer is doing something right in the field.

Perhaps more significant is the deal that makes Pfizer the first pharma client of Sermo. Pfizer will be able to see what Sermo's 31,000 registered physicians are saying about its products—and interact with them through “Learn or Earn” hotspots, lead to respective CME credits or cash (in exchange for opinions).

The deal, which has drawn mass intrigue and some ire from both industry and media, could represent the first steps to replacing the conventional pharma sales model with something much cheaper and more effective. If all goes to plan, Pfizer will be able to detail physicians on their own terms and at their own convenience. And if the company can find the most influential and connected physicians, it can grow a peer-to-peer network to do most of its detailing work for it.

New Drug Dossier
This month, MM&M launches the first alert service to provide both clinical information and marketing insights for newly approved products. Powered by Monthly Prescribing Reference, The MM&M New Drug Dossier offers not only information about class, indication, active ingredients, pharmacology, clinical trials, reactions and contraindications, but also a number of marketing insights, including agency rosters, marketing strategy, market data, competitors, physician outlook, financial forecast and a list of similar products in late-stage development. To subscribe, visit www.mmm-online.com.

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