The Top 75: RevHealth
“We expanded services in a time that traditional promotion was shrinking,” explains Epstein. “Pharma companies have cut back pretty dramatically on staff and on the number of products promoted. We did far less of our normal core business, like sales force promo pieces. But we picked up a lot of business in peer-to-peer and digital, which more than made up for the loss.”Revenue increased by about 5% last year. The service expansion continues to bolster the agency, as revenue is up 15% this year.
Headcount increased from 40 in 2008 to 42 last year (with no layoffs), and it's up to 45 now. Jo Lis, who was formerly a consultant, joined full time as director of digital solutions.Epstein is a registered pharmacist in New Jersey and teaches a pharmaceutical advertising course at his alma mater, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University. He's had great success recruiting PharmDs as account managers and copywriters. Nine are currently on staff, up from seven ending 2009.
Last year's wins include two women's health launch brands from Watson Pharmaceuticals (promotion AOR) and peer-to-peer AOR status for Novartis' Fanapt (schizophrenia). The agency also picked up project work on four opthamology brands from Bausch & Lomb and project work in Daiichi-Sankyo's hypertension group. Lost were Bayer's Kogenate (hemophilia) to global consolidation and Oncaspar (leukemia) after Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals acquired Enzon Pharmaceuticals.This year, RevHealth won managed market AOR status from Novartis' Zalbin (hepatitis) and project work on Novo Nordisk's Levemir (diabetes) and Axcan Pharma's Canasa (ulcerative colitis).
Epstein sees significant reductions in print work as clients move towards electronic media. He also notes time demands on doctors are driving increased direct to patient communication.“Healthcare reform will make it worse,” he adds. “Doctors have to see more patients to make the same money, and the number of people in the system will increase. As technology improves it's easier [for pharma companies] to communicate to patients without huge cost.”
The agency launched Medical Charities of America this year, which coordinates and moderates discussions between advocacy groups, chronic disease patients, and pharma companies.Epstein thinks agencies must master digital and become more medically focused to thrive in the current climate. “The pharma industry is in a reduction phase, and agencies are supportive of the pharma industry,” he says. “We have medically focused people who have a lot of experience. Even our entry-level people have very strong medical backgrounds. We're growing because pharma companies need our services, because our people have strong medical backgrounds.”