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May 12, 2015

A Clearer Vision of Our Future

At this last dinner meeting of the 2014-2015 season, Cynthia Queano gave an overview of the exciting events that the PMCQ has offered over the course of the season and the high quality speakers they have featured. The PMCQ Annual General Meeting also took place before Cynthia took the podium to introduce the impressive panel of speakers for tonight’s event. The panellists included Jacques Dessureault, GM, Valeant Canada, John Helou, President, Pfizer Canada, Allison Rosenthal, GM, Otsuka Canada, Eric Tse, GM, Shire Canada and Jon Fairest, President & CEO, sanofi. She led the panel through a series of questions and topics of discussion.

What is your company’s mission and vision and provide an example of how you’ve applied this in Canada.

Jacques Dessureault said that his company has a strong hypothesis that the specialty market is dead and it’s time to move on to something else. He said that the Rx&D pipeline is dry and that most “new products” are now coming from mergers and acquisitions. He also felt that there is an increasing influence of government and decision makers in the healthcare marketplace. He said that “diversification is the way to go” and felt that diversified organizations had sustainable models. He explained the company’s belief systems, which are to do what’s never been done, to work in global markets where decision maker is not consistently government, to develop products with indefinite life brands and to bet on management and not only science.

John Helou said that Pfizer’s mission is to be the premier biopharmaceutical company. He said that over the next 5 to10 years, Pfizer will bring two novel assets to market each year. Pfizer’s mission is to be able to make sure that innovations are brought to patients and that they will impact their lives in a meaningful way, in a timely fashion. He said that Pfizer’s strategies are to focus on an innovative core, to invest heavily in development, to commercialize and launch appropriately (i.e., decide where to compete and launch in order to bring innovative products to market) and to be respected by society, by becoming a role model.

Allison Rosenthal said that Otsuka views every moment as an opportunity to make an impact. She explained that, as a Japanese company, the company philosophy is different. The company’s goal is to bring better products for better health worldwide. She said that Otsuka came to Canada to introduce products that will make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives, to challenge convention and the status quo and to do what’s right by patients.

Eric Tse answered that Shire’s mission is to help people with life-altering conditions live better lives. He said that the company focuses on conditions that have a significant impact on patient quality of life. The company’s vision is to become a leading biotech company and to bring innovation to life-altering conditions.

Jon Fairest began by saying that sanofi’s business model has changed significantly and has moved towards healthcare solutions. He said that, like Pfizer, sanofi is hoping to launch at least two new innovative molecules for the next 6 years. The company’s focus is on fixing and managing diseases, rather than finding molecules and seeing where they can fit. They want to add health, hope and value to Canadian patients and they continue to research to deliver innovation in the most valuable propositions possible.

Describe your company’s involvement with patient organizations, and how do you see their role evolving with your company over the next 3 years.

Eric Tse answered that Shire provides medications that treat rare diseases that are not well known, so the company’s relationships with patient organizations provide them with learnings, as well as their needs so that Shire can better meet them. He added that pharma shouldn’t be apologetic about their relationships with these associations, because they’re important and focus on patient advocacy.

Jon Fairest felt that there is a need to involve patient organizations earlier in product development. His company has already launched a product in Canada where one of the stakeholders was a patient organization to help ensure that patients would get better access to the drug.

Allison Rosenthal said that Otsuka has the patient at the centre of what they do. She shared that her company had a patient representative at one of their pre-NDS meetings with Health Canada for new product. She felt that there is great value in partnerships with patient organizations.

Discuss your opinion on what branding is, provide an illustration from your own company and tell us what you feel holds us back from superior branding our life-saving medicines.

Jacques Dessureault said that iconic branding is something that you look at and it describes the product, such as Apple, Nike or the Rolling Stones. In pharma, there are a few iconic brands, such as Ventolin (blue puffer), Viagra (blue pill) and Nexium (purple pill). Another example he provided was Bausch and Laum, which stands for eye health. He related the story of the Bausch and Laum company branding strategy and the thought process behind it, because he felt that it was an example of where the process was even more important than the outcome. He concluded by saying that a successful branding strategy is one where everyone is “singing the same song”.

John Helou said that branding is everything. “It’s what you do every day. It’s a combination of art, a combination of science, grounded in leveraging customer insights to generate a meaningful value proposition that is uniquely suited to you and to nobody else.” He added that he’s seen equivalent brands perform differently and the reason is they space they occupy in patients’ minds. The key is to unlock customer insights and translate them into meaningful propositions. He said, “A molecule doesn’t become a brand until you breathe life into it.” John said that Rx&D has changed how they communicate with stakeholders and are becoming more collaborative. They have developed a 3-year strategic plan and they are a lobby group that advocates for a favourable environment to accelerate the time to get innovative medicines to the patient.

Allison Rosenthal answered that branding is more about emotion and differentiation. “When it feels right, it’s right and when it feels wrong, it’s wrong.” She said that it’s important for her company to brand itself, so they have a consistent company narrative that they present in all their interactions.

Outline how your organization is adapting their commercial model or, is success in the future more a matter of existing models being more effective and efficient.

Jon Fairest said that companies need to more efficient and focused and sanofi is taking an institutional approach to things rather than targeting specific healthcare professionals. They’ve also realized the importance of pharmacies and pharmacists in the patient journey and recognize that they represent an absolutely crucial partnership in the patient healthcare piece. In addition, they are looking at the Canadian reimbursement model and how they can support the right model so that patients get the right information at the right time.

Jacques Dessureault said that Valeant is selling portfolios, not brands, and that they have a very different commercial model. He added that pharma’s sales model is inefficient and is something that will have to change.

Allison Rosenthal said that Otsuka has a more traditional commercial model. They’re big venture, not big pharma and are small enough to capitalize on opportunities, but big enough to have an impact. She added that their model for product launches has shifted to be when patients can get access to medication and not when the product gets NOC.

John Helou said that marketers need to become obsessed with reinventing their marketing mix and innovation is the key to success.

Reflecting on your own career development, what skills or lessons can you point to which may guide us into the pharma of the near future?

Eric Tse said that everyone needs to take charge of their own career development. He said that people should assess for themselves where they want to go, what avenues they need to take to get there and develop a plan and discuss it with their manager or company. He shared that, when he did this assessment for himself, he found that making a lateral move helped him to get experience that benefited him in the long run. He said, “You’ve got to be good at what you do and learn from every position.”

Jacques Dessureault had two pieces of advice: 1) Be uncomfortable and 2) Stop over-complicating everything. He pointed out that success in business is often not what’s learned in school. He encouraged people to take risks and seize opportunities when they present themselves. He also said, “If there’s no fit [in a company], get out.”

Can you speak to any transformation that your company has undergone and, from a leadership perspective, how do you ensure its success?

Jon Fairest answered that sanofi is transforming itself from a traditional pharma company to a healthcare company providing healthcare solutions. He said that there is a need to rebuild the belief in the organization that it’s building a sustainable future. With the new products that are coming (i.e., biologics), there are different needs and companies need to make sure that patients get the best access to innovation.

John Helou felt that rigor is required to identify what one wants to transform into. Boundaries need to be set up and then the necessary skills need to be acquired to excel in that area. He felt that transformation becomes a brand of its own that needs to be fed.

Jacques Dessureault felt that uncertainty is the worst thing and that clarity and speed are needed for transformations to happen successfully.

Cynthia then read some questions from the audience and the panellists’ responses are outlined below.


  • Q: What inspires you?
    • The idea of building something, getting out of your comfort zone, with no precedent or road map.
    • The people on the teams that I work with. We’re lucky in this industry that people take adversity in the face and fight through it and have pride in what they do.
    • Getting more out of my team than they thought possible and seeing them get better and learn every day.
    • Leading an organization that can have an impact on my parents and their health.
    • Helping others with diseases and giving them access to life-altering medications that can improve their quality of life.

  • Q: As the only woman on the panel (Allison Rosenthal), do you feel there is anything different women need to do to ensure their progression?
    • No, you have to do what feels right for you. You have to manage your own career and do things that make you excited and passionate
    • Taking risks is important; you are responsible for your own destiny

  • Q: What is Rx&D doing to elevate their role in terms of the head of patient organizations?
    • We must improve times when products are being offered to patients; if the patient organizations can play a critical role in this, we can support them
    • Organizations are divided by disease area and that weakens them

  • Q: How do you see the role of the patient changing with the proliferation of the internet and availability of information?
    • In rare disease it’s critical, but in other areas, the patient voice isn’t that strong and you might not need it to be strong
    • We shouldn’t be so trepidatious about “dipping our foot in that water” as an industry; there is a benefit to being part of that dialogue

  • Q: What strategies to you use to attract and retain employees?
    • Curiosity and the drive to learn because it brings energy and passion
    • Hiring for fit
    • Qualification is only a small piece of the puzzle

  • Q: What keeps you up at night?
    • Sustainability
    • People stuff; making the right decisions to keep sustainable jobs for people
    • Products coming to market now have 8 years of data exclusivity; can you make an adequate return on the investment with 5 years on the market; that’s what we should be worried about

  • Cynthia concluded the meeting with her key take-aways of the themes of the evening, which were:
    • Be obsessed with efficiency
    • Be opportunistic
    • Be uncomfortable
    • Define your raison d’être, be it for your brand or for yourself
    • Challenge the status quo


Lara Holmes
Medical Writer
Cell: 514-425-4977


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

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