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July 2, 2004
The Two Ends of the Stick
I wanted to emphasize a point I made yesterday, about how far removed the research organization is from the sales force in a drug company. I'm not backing away from them, just pointing out that we're at completely opposite ends of a company's functions.
By the time a drug gets into the hands of the sales team, it's been many years since anyone in my area ever worked on it. Several members of the original team have usually left the place completely by that time, and are working for the competition when the drug they helped discover actually makes it to market. The ones who are still there have worked on several other projects by then, and would be hard-pressed to recall all the details of the series of compounds that led to the marketed one. Did we ever try to put a fluorine at that position? Well, yeah, I thinkso. . .didn't so-and-so try that? But they left three years ago, you'd have to go dig through their notebook. . .
It's not like there's no pride in ownership. Everyone in research knows who discovered and worked on the drugs that actually make it all the way to market (partly because there are so few!) It's just that there's such a long lag time between the work we do and the commercial life of the drug. That's why the sales force doesn't have much to say to the research labs, and vice versa. Nothing we're doing can possibly affect their lives in under seven years, and most of the things we're doing will fail and disappear long before then.
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