“Game Change” Weekend

After months of discussion and anticipation, this is the weekend we finally get to see the HBO movie “Game Change” which is a behind the scenes look at the 2008 election.  It should be interesting, to say the least, but perhaps it should challenge us in the pharmaceutical industry to look at “Game Changers” in our own world and see how prepared we are to deal with the fallout.

This week, there was a report that a consumer coalition filed a lawsuit against eight major pharmaceutical companies claiming the “coupons” used to offset patient co-pays were illegal.  I don’t want to comment on the whether the lawsuit has any merit, but would rather question how prepared are we should this lawsuit succeed.  How many patients would the typical brand lose if patients had to pay the entire tier three co-pay?  This has the potential to create some chaos.

The coupon lawsuit is merely one example of potential game changers we could be facing.  What if the sales representative case on overtime pay wins in the Supreme Court?  Would the industry begin mandating representatives to report their work every 15 minutes as an agency or law firm does?  Would this be the end of commissions, as this result would indicate reps are not sales people?  What would happen if groups like “No Free Lunch” begin to gather traction and private offices begin to really shut out reps as we see happening in some of the major teaching hospitals?  What if the government decided that drug samples really were an unethical tactic and banned them because they encouraged the use of more expensive products?

The odds of any of the above happening can be debated and friendly wagers made as to whether and when any of these will occur.  The real concern is that none of these game changers have a 0% chance of happening.  Any one of these would have a dramatic impact on how we do business in the US.  How much time and effort have you put into trying to determine what would be your countermoves to these things happening?

Some would say that there is a significant difference between chess and checkers players in that chess requires a somewhat more strategic plan.  It requires thinking of moves well ahead of the current move and evaluating the reactions of your opponent.  Checkers may not be quite as complex.  A question to ask yourself is when developing plans for your brands do you think more like a chess or a checkers player?  I would argue the industry needs many more chess players.

Although this is very serious business, the reason I refer to games is that this is precisely the best way to approach this work.  You need to pay attention, especially to what is happening outside the mainstream.  Keep a list of all the possible things that could change your business significantly.  Start to imagine how you would react to the change.  How would you beat your competition by coming up with more clever ideas?  It may surprise you that you will come up with ideas that are so intriguing that want to implement them immediately.  This is the way to stay ahead of competition and make your own games changes!

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