Showing posts with label Schering-Plough. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Schering-Plough. Show all posts

Friday, April 04, 2008

Soon-to-be Laid Off Schering-Plough Employees: Read This

As reported in today's Newark Star-Ledger, Schering-Plough's New Jersey employees will bear the brunt of Fred Hassan's plan to fire, terminate, let go with extreme prejudice, 5,500 people in S-P's workforce:

"Schering-Plough's chief executive said yesterday the budget ax will fall first and hardest in New Jersey as the drugmaker cuts more than $1 billion in spending after the abrupt collapse of its top-selling cholesterol medicines.

"Fred Hassan said the global cost-cutting plan announced late Wednesday was still under development, but workers in the United States -- particularly employees at the company's Kenilworth headquarters -- would bear the brunt of the projected 5,500 layoffs.

"'The way it's going to fall on the U.S., unfortunately, it's going to fall on New Jersey,' Hassan said in a telephone interview. 'That's the way the situation has unfolded.'"

"That's the way the ball bounces, the cookie crumbles! Too bad for you! But, hey, I'm OK!"

A lot of families will be in trouble at the worst possible time as the entire US economy may be heading for a recession (according to Warren Buffet, Ben Bernanke, and other "insiders").

Not all who are axed will be seeking jobs at other pharmaceutical companies, many of which are cutting back as well, but these are qualified people who can help pharmaceutical vendors work smarter and find potential clients within the drug industry. I propose, therefore, to help these people network with vendors -- ad agencies, medical communications companies, solution providers, technology companies, etc -- and possibly find at least some leads to a new career.

4th Annual (2008)
Networking Dinner Reception
An evening of networking, food, and information sharing

I invite all soon-to-be laid off employees of S-P to sign up to attend the networking dinner reception. You can find out more about here and sign up for early-bird discount registration via the Networking Event Preferences Survey.

Don't Take the Axe Laying Down!
You must get out there and network if you expect to find a new job and generally CREATE opportunities rather than wait for them to come to you! That is why Pharma Marketing Network is AGAIN hosting a networking event for pharmaceutical sales and marketing professionals.


P.S. We are looking for a venue for this event in New Jersey, probably somewhere between Princeton and Parsippany. You can help us choose the location and venue by responding to the Preferences Survey. Thank you and good luck!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Make Way for the 150-Second Vytorin TV Ad

Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan told listeners at a recent Lehman Brothers healthcare conference that Vytorin-Zetia TV ads will soon be back on the air. This time, however, do NOT expect to see the cute food-people comparison ads, which I thought were getting old a long time ago (see "Vytorin Ads Are Getting Old -- and Disturbing!").

As I said before:
Personally, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that the people-food comparison ads will come back. They are as dead as dodos. SP-Merck will have to come up with new ads like Pfizer did for Celebrex after Vioxx (a similar NSAID) was pulled from the market (see "New Vytorin TV Ads Are in the Works - IMHO").
As a matter of fact, my sources (neurons) tell me that the new Vytorin ads will be very similar to the Celebrex 150-second commercial. Not similar in style, but similar in length (150 seconds) and message; ie, there are risks and here's what they are, but the benefits outweigh the risks for the right kind of people, see your doctor.

The new Vytorin ads will also have to counteract the anti-atherosclerosis campaign by Crestor (see "Crestor Print Ad Touts Plaque Buildup Advantage"). But that will have play second fiddle to convincing us that taking Vytorin is worth the risk.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Zetia "49 Strategy" -- Wine and Dine 'em Danno!

I just got this comment from an anonymous source:
"Did you hear about SP's 'Zetia 49 Plan'? Apparently they gave all their reps a wad of cash to throw at doctors . . . "
Thinking this was just some kind of rant, I went over to the Schering Plough company board at Cafe Pharma and discovered this interesting thread:
Wondered what everyone thinks about this Zetia 49 plan??

I hate having extra $$ that I have to spend on Drs that I can barely see.
I have a hard time spending all my lunch/dinner $$ now.

Can't get docs out to dinner anyway - especially the ones they've targeted for me.

Why is there no accomodation for additions/deletions on the list from those who know the business, territory, customers the best - the reps??

This instruction that we are to have a lunch or dinner EVERY DAY - come on!! Like all the Drs offices aren't booked already for the year - or have stopped doing lunches/dinners altogether!

Hey Marketing Genuises - this isn't 1990 anymore, ya know??

Throwing money at a problem is not the way to fix things - it will only make matters worse. Have the company come clean about the study, give us some good (or even not so good) evidenced based medicine - and let us earn back the business the right way.

Hey how about replacing the Vytorin combination of Zetia and Simva with Zetia and Cheerios. Change the dose to one bowl per day with skim milk. Create a TV ad with Mikey. He will eat it Mikey eats everything. You could call it something creative like Cheatios.

Does any one think that having all this extra money thrown at us looks and feels like we are "buying" back the business - not "earning" back the business?

Once again, SP is seeing just how far it can go without crossing the line...

Hey Fred, Carrie - the line HAS been crossed!

Integrity counts!

So we have a quarter or two of single digit or no growth, its ok, you know?

Let us be proud that we work for this company rather than skulking around trying to figure out how we can spend over a thousand dollars/month to buy back the business.

Its an election year - and the whole world is watching!!

Good luck at the ACC!

Here is why it will not work:

- This is another version of increasing share of voice (SOV) in hopes of increasing prescriptions. Right from the 1990's Big Pharma Playbook. The theory is that if we pound the message enough, doctors will write.

- We have lost the trust of doctors. It is not the message, but until there is DATA showing that Zetia reduces CV events and mortality, doctors will say that we are just spewing the same old shit, and get even more pissed.

- The pharma sales model is changing. Soon, you will see more and more companies going with 1 rep per doc, and focusing on developing relatioships and trust to drive business and less focus on presentations that look like commercials.

- Fred and Carrie are hopelessly stuck in the last century.
I have to agree with the last poster. This sort of tactic is bound to backfire. It's interesting that reps cannot spend all the lunch money they have. I guess there's no recession in the pharmaceutical industry!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pharma R&D Succumbs to the Dark Side

I once said "God bless the dedicated researchers and scientists of the pharmaceutical industry! They are truly the unsung heroes of the pharmaceutical industry! Too bad they are sequestered in their labs!" and "If God blesses the folks in pharma R&D, the devil may take pharmaceutical marketers -- unless they reform!"(see "God Bless R&D, but Marketers May Go to Hell!").

I even came up with a nice visual image of this sentiment:

Of course, I held little hope that Pharma Marketing would reform, but I didn't think that R&D would make a pact with the devil! The more I learn about about Merck's and Schering-Plough's failed ENHANCE study (see, for example, "How high hopes ultimately hurt Vytorin study"), the more I think a deal indeed was made.

Perhaps the following image is better suited to reality these days within pharma companies:

That is, R&D is succumbing to the demands of the commercial side of pharma. It's not quite under the thumb of the dark side, but it's tainted, which is one conclusion I came to after reading the EHNANCE story.

According to the NJ Star-Ledger article cited above, "Interviews with 10 of the leading research scientists and clinical trial experts, as well as the companies, suggest the study was ill-conceived and poorly managed -- all in the name of seeking scientific proof Vytorin was more effective than its rivals."

Not only that, "In a break from standard clinical trial procedure, Merck and Schering-Plough oversaw the trial instead of a panel of outside scientists. There also was no safety monitoring board to oversee the health of clinical trial volunteers, which is typically appointed in studies involving new drugs."

And, "The most troubling shortcoming, the experts said, came when Schering-Plough's statisticians reviewed some raw study data in April 2006 before the examinations of all 750 volunteer test subjects at 11 sites around the globe were complete."

It was also said that the study was poorly designed: "The people selected for the study did not have abnormal amounts of plaque in their arteries to begin with, setting a high hurdle for Vytorin to reduce it."

I've got to believe that the scientists setting up these studies are smart people and do not develop clinical trial designs with "high hurdles." I think they designed the study to satisfy the main marketing message that the Vytorin marketers wanted to send: that Vytorin slows the progression of the buildup of plaque in people prone to this build up. If Vytorin could claim that, then it would be more competitive with Lipitor and Crestor. It's easier to detect a slight increase in the control group if the base level is normal rather than high.

[Tell me if this analogy is good: it's easier to distinguish a light gray tone from white than it is to distinguish two slightly different tones of gray.]

"Kastelein [the a cardiologist in Amsterdam who proposed the study] and three Schering-Plough scientists who helped design the study are no longer with the company."

Call in the R&D hit men and then eliminate them. If that's not dark, then I don't know what is!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vytorin and Zetia Are Dead in the Water

Physicians have virtually stopped writing new prescriptions (NWRx's) for Vytorin and Zetia since the bad news about the ENHANCE trial became public. This is evident in the chart below compiled by ImpactRx.

Click to Enlarge.

I first saw this chart over at the WSJ Health Blog, but they forgot to include the key that would allow you to identify the drugs. Seems I was the only person who caught this and cared enough to contact the people at ImpactRX, who kindly supplied me with my own version of the chart, key and all.

If physicians continue to NOT write NRx's for these drugs -- they have increased NRx's for simvastatin, the cheap, generic version of Merck’s Zocor -- then that would mean trouble for Merck and Schering in the Lipid drug market.

It seems that Lipitor may also be in trouble, according to the WSJ Blog. U.S. sales of Lipitor were down 8% from 2006, and world-wide sales were off 2% ("The End of the Lipitor Era").

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Cardiologist is on Vacation - "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

It's been nearly 48 hours since I called my cardiologist's office to ask him about Zetia, which he prescribed to me long before the recent news of the ENHANCE trial flop (see "Should I Stop Taking Zetia?"). There's been no return call from him or any other healthcare professional/nurse in his office to answer some of my questions. OK, he's on vacation and this is not a emergency. But you would think that SOMEONE would get back to me.

Today, I will try my primary care physician and see what she says, if she's there.

Meanwhile, not only have I lost faith in Zetia, I have lost faith in the whole notion that lowering my bad cholesterol numbers is necessarily a goal that should be achieved at all costs.

Today, in an article in the New York Times, Alex Berenson writes:
For decades, the theory that lowering cholesterol is always beneficial has been a core principle of cardiology. It has been accepted by doctors and used by drug makers to win quick approval for new medicines to reduce cholesterol.

But now some prominent cardiologists say the results of two recent clinical trials have raised serious questions about that theory — and the value of two widely used cholesterol-lowering medicines, Zetia and its sister drug, Vytorin. Other new cholesterol-fighting drugs, including one that Merck hopes to begin selling this year, may also require closer scrutiny, they say.
I've already stopped taking the statin drug I was first put on 12 years ago! My cardiologist didn't blink when I told him, but he did suggest Omega-3 Fatty Acid capsules. I am also taking niacin (recommended by my primary care doc) and Red Yeast Rice capsules that Dr. Weil recommended in an AARP magazine article I read (a friend also recommended it).

Thus, I am slowly turning my cardiovascular treatment oil tanker away from Big Pharma's Bermuda Triangle and heading towards the calm shoals of "Alternative Treatment." Let's see what my LDL level is when I next test my blood. Maybe my liver enzymes won't be so high!

This is what the drug industry has wrought! They have no-one else to blame but themselves. In striving to add one more efficacy claim to their DTC ads and failing so dramatically, Merck and Schering-Plough may be in danger of losing many other customers like me.

But striving for additional profits and failing is not the real shame. Throughout this whole ordeal, these companies have tried to pull the wool over doctors' and patients' eyes by first hiding the data, then manipulating the data. When that failed, they had nothing to say to me, the consumer, except issue a press release!

Screw them! I've had enough already! "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Should I Stop Taking Zetia?

After Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. admitted that Vytorin -- a combination of Zetia and Zocor (simvastatin) -- worked no better than an older, generic medication to reduce plaques in arteries, Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, immediately called for a "moratorium" on the use of Vytorin and Zetia, according to a story on (see coverage here).

My question is this: Should I stop taking Zetia, which was prescribed to me by my cardiologist, who--although I respect his judgment--is no head of cardiology at a renowned medical center?

The problem is that I haven't heard from MY CARDIOLOGIST or MY FAMILY DOCTOR about whether or not I should continue to take Zetia. I guess I should call them.

But why is it that the my Volkswagen service center calls me soon after buying a new car, whereas I have never received a call from any doctor about service for my body?

I know that Nissen is not my doctor and is not giving individual medical advice to all those patients like me out there who are on Zetia or Vytorin and whose doctors are mum on the subject. Whether or not I should continue my medication depends upon my personal medical history that only me and my doctor can evaluate.

But where is my doctor? Why isn't he more pro-active? Why hasn't he contacted me a long time ago and either re-assured me about Zetia or told me to hold off until the ENHANCE study data were reported? Why didn't he tell me about the study a long time ago and what it might mean for ME personally? I know you will say that he should have and I should find a doctor who is more proactive. Hey, it may be possible to find one. But who has the time for all that due diligence and switching medical records around!

There's all kinds of cardiologists these days advising me what to do. There's Dr. Jarvik, for example. He's telling me that Lipitor is good for my cholesterol. Oh! Wait a minute! He's not REALLY a cardiologist. In fact, he doesn't even have a license to practice medicine at all (see Jarvik -- Lipitor spokesperson -- "outed" as an unlicensed physician!).

Then there's Dr. Nissen, who IS a practicing cardiologist. He's quoted all the time in the media. I respect his opinion although I know he's every pharmaceutical executive's worst nightmare.

I am sure there will be many more cardiologists weighing in with their opinions in media stories to come. But MY doctor probably won't be one of them.

Of course, I will be calling my cardiologist today and asking him about all this. I will report back to you when I hear something from him.

P.S. Don't worry about me. While my cholesterol is a bit high, I have recently passed my high-tech stress test, which cost my insurance company about $13,000 (thanks be to God that my wife has a real job with good benefits. My laid-off neighbor with 2 small children, however, is not so lucky.)

P.P.S. Since this blog is really all about pharmaceutical marketing, I should say something about how the ENHANCE trial failure may affect the advertising of Zetia and Vytorin.

Obviously, these brands are probably maintaining a low profile these days. I don't remember seeing the usual ads on TV last night. Perhaps the ads are being revamped in light of the ENHANCE trial news and will soon re-appear addressing the issues raised by the study's failure. But why weren't these damage-control ads rolled out IMMEDIATELY? Maybe it's best to say nothing to the public -- No way! Merck and Schering-Plough should have PSAs explaining their take on the situation and NOT just depend on issuing a press release!

What about the product web sites? Perhaps they have some information. I checked both and -- both the patient and doctor sites -- and found NOTHING about the recent news. I looked in patient education areas where doctors are supposed to find information to hand out to their patients, I looked in the FAQ areas, the "Questions to Ask Your Doctor" areas, the "Studies" areas -- NO WHERE COULD I FIND A WORD ABOUT THIS!

That's a shame in my book. Shame on you Merck! Shame on you Schering-Plough! Shame on you MY DOCTOR!

Then they wonder why patients go to other sources on the Internet and other patients they do not even know on the Internet to find information they need about their medications!
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