The Top 60: Interlink Healthcare Communications

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Last year brought successes and challenges for the Interlink Healthcare Group, which is comprised of four units: IneXel, a global med ed/CME group; I-link, a multimedia/interactive group; Ingrafik, an art and design group, and Interlink Healthcare Communications (IHC), a full-service advertising and promotion agency. The Interlink Healthcare Group is a part of the Lowe Healthcare Worldwide network.
IHC got a lift from Covance Periapproval Services with an account of record win, and picked up another AOR on BEMA Fentanyl, Meda Pharmaceuticals' pain medication in development. Imclone tapped IHC for Erbitux, a colorectal, head and neck oncology product. “We're doing interesting and varied work,” says Michael Krocker, the recently hired general manager.

IHC has “full-service experience across every therapeutic area,” and that includes cardiology—Krocker uses the example of BMS's Avapro, for hypertension, as an example of success in the high-science arena. There is a growing opportunity in oncology, says Krocker, but it's not without risk, as emerging specialty drugs and experimentals don't always work out.

IHC lost Novartis' Sandostatin account, and was disappointed by BMS's vinflunine, a cancer treatment, which “hasn't come to fruition,” says Krocker. “The trials just weren't panning out.” GlaxoSmithKline's gepirone ER, an experimental treatment for major depressive disorder, was also a bust, after the FDA denied approval on the product. “Gepirone ER was very promising and looked to be huge,” says Krocker.

Interestingly, Covance Periapproval Services, a contract research organization, offers the kinds of services that could prevent new drugs from petering out at the FDA. “[Covance] is able to help navigate [regulatory and clinical procedure] and provide what's needed – risk management across Phases II, III and IV,” says Dave Renner, chief creative officer at IHC. “In the FDA setting, risk maps have to be done ahead of time,” adds Krocker. With the Covance campaign, IHC created ads with “stopping power,” that “broke Covance away from the pack,” says Renner.

The agency is proud of its Aptivus campaign for HIV as well, says Krocker. “It's very emotive, and has shown a good response with physicians. It's the dawn of a new day for AIDS.”

“What's happening in [the industry] is that the FDA is reacting to news events. The FDA has become more conscious about how [companies] invest during Phase II and III, and they're setting the bar higher,” explains Krocker.

In 2008, Interlink will continue to foster its I-link unit, providing flash emails, e-media and other interactive solutions. “[I-link] is what clients are biting on,” says Krocker. “They're looking for unique podcasting and webcasting, and the space keeps increasing,” says Renner. However, expanding into new frontiers online “has to be what's right for the particular brand. Where does it make sense to go? It shouldn't be a case of the tail wagging the dog,” he says.

IHC will continue to recruit in 2008, and is always looking for talent, say Krocker and Renner. “I've been in the business for a number of years, and some of the issues we're dealing with aren't all that different from things that have happened before,” says Krocker. “It's important to keep your eye on the ball.”
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