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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the May 22, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Helping Pharmas Exploit The Power of the Internet
Don’t look to big pharmaceutical companies for the
latest and greatest in Web-based technology. The pharmas have just
begun to tap the power of the Web.
"Let’s face it," says Debra Newton of Pennington-based Newton
Interactive, "Website development is not the core business of
pharmaceutical companies. They manufacture and market drugs in a very
regulated environment. By the nature of the industry, they are
conservative. They wait for the `cutting edge initiatives’ to become
stable and proven before implementing, and they take a pragmatic,
functional approach to using the technology to help them do what they
Nevertheless, Princeton’s pharmaceutical service companies —
by big pharma’s internal politics and fueled by entrepreneurial
— are setting the pace to get the clients up to speed on the Web.
Take detailers, for example. Detailers are drug company sales people
that make personal calls on a doctor’s office to dispense free samples
and tell the doctor about the latest therapies. The detailers spend
lots of time and money — sales calls cost $5 billion last year
– in the hope of getting three minutes of a doctor’s time. Now many
companies are trying to reach those same doctors less expensively
online. By next year, predicts the Gartner Group, 60 percent of the
top companies will underwrite videoconferencing applications and
in doctor’s offices.
Translating $300 personal sales visits to $100 online visits is just
one way that Princeton-based firms are helping the healthcare industry
leverage the power of the World Wide Web. Training and testing that
takes place online is particularly important in a highly regulated
area such as pharmaceuticals.
Princeton companies are also focusing on content management, taking
advantage of the Web’s 24 x 7 availability for lecture material that
can be downloaded for presentations — and for databases that can
provide resources about a particular health problem.
Having quick access to sales and educational updates won’t help if
the drug company’s message is not on target, and Princeton has some
of the leaders in Web-based healthcare market research.
Just announced, new Web-based systems to manage collaboration. One
is pharmaceutical specific, for helping clinical research
and pharmaceutical companies get a drug through the clinical trial
process. The other, to manage accelerated development of new
products, can apply to any industry.
If big pharmas have been slow to implement Web-based solutions —
that leaves all the more opportunity for web savvy companies in
New Jersey. Here’s what a dozen companies are doing to help healthcare
firms get on the Internet train, followed by a potpourri of digital
solutions in other industries. Next week: Part II of Technology on
Using the Internet to educate physicians and sell more
drugs is the focus for Lathian Systems, formerly known as
Offering technology-based sales and marketing for the life science
industry, Lathian Systems, at 821 Alexander Road, packages a sales
message for doctors to watch on their own computers. Drug companies
provide the messages and their list of target physicians, and
does all the rest. It also gives the drug companies some online
tools to help develop the messages in a speedy fashion.
"No other company offers technical infrastructure, content
physician recruiting, and account management wrapped together into
one offering," says Mike Wells, vice president of sales and
"We have the organizational memory to keep these systems running
efficiently. We take on all the risk and are confident of our ability
to perform. We charge the customer a per physician interaction fee,
so they have nothing to lose."
Lathian Systems was founded two years ago as MyDrugRep.com by Quan
X. Pham, a former Marine helicopter pilot. Pham raised $14 million
in venture capital financing and recruited Mike Wells from Merck,
and Wells opened the Princeton office in July, 2001 as a sublet from
Intertrust. With 14 employees in Princeton (including V. Brewster
Jones, the new CEO) and 25 in Newport Beach, California, this
company has investments from Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Sprout
Group, and Siebel.
The firm recently changed its name to the old English word for
so it could "invite" a broad array of businesses to increase
their sales and marketing programs. Current clients include 12
and 20 brand teams including Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novo Nordisk,
Pharmacia, and Wyeth.
On April 29 Lathian Systems released the latest edition of the
product that lets companies tailor the sales message to the individual
doctor’s prescribing habits. "Our segmentation tool allows
to cut their target list into finer segments and offer messages to
the individual segments," says Wells. Also, product demonstrations
can now be displayed using 3-D imagery. "If they have a very
molecule, 3-D display offers a much more realistic image of
As before, doctors can call up customer service representatives in
real time or watch archived video lectures from experts. "The
sales presentations we develop use several content format options
— flash animation, HTML, archive video, and live chat. Customers
can mix and match or use just one to develop their sales
That makes us unique. And all our sales presentations are integrated
with the traditional sales force," says Wells.
A Los Angeles native, Wells graduated from the University of
in 1990 and earned his master’s degree there. At Merck he designed
national advertising campaigns for four major franchises and put
a world-class customer service center. He also went for his executive
MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Wells says his chief competition is an Illinois-based firm, Physician
Interactive, that was recently acquired by the large public company,
Allscripts. "But they are doing only HTML, not flash animation,
archive video, and live chat."
Princeton 08540. V. Brewster Jones, CEO. 609-514-1030; fax,
Home page: www.lathian.com.
Carnegie Center-based IPhysicianNet is a connectivity
healthcare firm with high quality interactive video detailing for
selected physicians. The six-year-old company, based in Scottsdale,
Arizona, claims to have staked out the real-time video interaction
territory for pharmas and physicians. It has given PC-based
systems to more than 7,500 primary care physicians nationwide so that
the physicians have easy access to drug company salespeople.
Whereas MyDrugRep’s training is web-based and available 24 x 7,
has live interactive detailing in regular business hours.
Physicians who meet a particular client’s criteria receive a free
modified PC under the iPhysicianNet plan. They can meet with
representatives, the detailers, in "real time" interactively,
replicating the person to person live interaction through video
The salesperson and the doctor can watch each other as they talk
a sequence of graphs and illustrations. "Other companies pigeon
hole themselves in the E-detailing slot, but we offer real time
interactive," says Robert Maio, vice president.
is an efficient way to get a message to a physician. Physicians call
them when they are ready to talk."
The firm opened a 3,000 square foot office at 103 Carnegie Center
two years ago (U.S. 1, November 1, 2000). Earlier this year it raised
$11 million in fourth-round financing and hired a new president and
COO, Myron Z. Holubiak, the former president of Hoffman LaRoche
who works in the Carnegie Center office. Clients include AstraZeneca,
Aventis, Eli Lilly, Glaxo SmithKline, Ortho-McNeil, Janssen, J&J*Merck
Consumer, Merck, Novartis, Pharmacia, and Wyeth.
Based on projections he made two years ago, IPhysicianNet is not
as fast as Maio expected. But soon the firm will double its space
by moving its 18 employees to 6,000 feet at 214 Carnegie Center, and
it has about 140 workers at its headquarters in Arizona.
115, Princeton 08540. Myron Z. Holubiak, president and COO.
fax, 609-275-8819. Www.iPhysicianNet.com
The costs of training may have risen, but the costs
of "not training" have risen even more substantially. In 2000,
for instance, one government agency alone levied fines totaling more
than $86 million on companies that failed to conduct the required
Eduneering, a pioneer in the design of web-based training systems,
has worked with more than 250 clients in the pharmaceutical, chemical,
energy and general manufacturing industries to develop, implement
and document effective learning programs.
Founded by Robert Delamontagne, this business started in Princeton,
moved to Pennsylvania, then moved into University Square, on Campus
Drive opposite the Hyatt. Though it started as an educational
company, EduNeering wrote the first computer training programs for
the energy industry. Then it entered the pharma arena and now also
has vertical markets in food, healthcare/managed care, and
The 22-year-old firm has 40 employees on Campus Drive plus 60 more
in Houston, Texas, and Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.
EduNeering works with organizations in both the public and private
sector to develop targeted learning solutions that employ a
learning" approach, combing various techniques into a cohesive
system that changes the behavior of the workforce and documents their
learning activities — all over the Internet.
For example, one company might reserve classroom instruction for
skills training while providing training in the fundamentals through
E-learning methods. Another company might use the instructor-led
to provide general instruction to all employees, with E-learning being
used to deliver detailed and specific instruction.
In its 300-course library are modules for the Occupational Health
and Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and
the Department of Transportation. But the best known public sector
client is "ORA U," otherwise known as the United States Food
and Drug Administration’s "Office of Regulatory Affairs
Designed to provide consistent, documented training for ORA’s hundreds
of inspectors and investigators, is also available by subscription
to corporations — in effect, providing the regulated community
with the same training tools that are used by the regulating agency.
Under development for two years, the ORA program gained visibility
after September 11 and has been a critical part of the FDA’s ability
to meet new demands. "Because of this technology the training
for FDA investigators that do inspections has been shortened from
12 months to three to six months," says Janice McFarland,
vice president, LifeScience division. She points out that, to protect
the nation’s drug and food supply, the FDA is training 4,000 workers
now and has just hired 600 new employees. "A total of 65,000 FDA
investigators and state and local regulators will be taking this
she says. "We are creating more advanced courses for the
Don Deieso, president & CEO. 609-627-5300; fax, 609-627-5330. Home
Billing itself as a provider of digital solutions for
the healthcare industry, Newton Interactive is a nine-year-old company
with 42 employees. In one of its prime areas, online learning systems,
it offers a custom training and learning portal that combines a
system with web-based course content.
Assessor, Newton’s test maker/test taker delivery and management tool,
has the ability to reduce the time it takes for teachers to grade
tests. Teachers can create and administer the tests on the web and
then report the results. Because it is web-based, teachers and
can access it anywhere, and teachers can tap archives of "tried
and true" test questions.
In another area, content management, Newton works with clients to
select and customize one of the leading systems — OpenMarket,
Interwoven, or Documentum. Web-based access to content can decrease
costs and increase effectiveness. "Marketing teams that typically
work in a silo are standardizing their Web development process to
maximize efficiencies and centralize their valuable assets," says
08534. Debra Newton, president & CEO. 609-818-0025; fax, 609-818-0045.
Home page: www.newtoninteractive.com
When it was known as Hastings Healthcare Group, Health
Answers owned Eduneering, the online training organization at Campus
Drive. Hastings was bought out and Eduneering separated from the
firm. While the headquarters for Health Answers is now in North Wales,
Pennsylvania, the Titus Mill Road office of Health Answers Inc. has
65 people in the marketing communications and the health management
Online education remains an important part of the Health Answers
As a service to medical associations, Health Answers offers an
continuing education service for online test taking, instant scoring,
and certificate generation. Through a continuing education institute
it serves doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. It also has an interactive
technology platform that with such features as downloadable slides,
case studies, virtual ground rounds, web casting, and speaker training
B, Pennington Office Park, Pennington 08534-4399. Tom Dougherty, vice
president finance. 609-730-0100; fax, 609-730-0330. Home page:
Seven is a good number for Ann Heckel. Her medical
company has been laboring over a materials delivery system for ad
agencies and pharmaceutical firms, and it has finally come to
"This is what we have been preparing for for about seven
Her new materials delivery system sponges up all the materials that
an ad agency can provide and delivers it to anyone — physician,
researcher or salesperson — who needs images and information for
a presentation. They can go online and download the images that they
want. Or they can get preformatted presentations. Or they can update
the images that they already use. The time required to accomplish
these tasks is hours, not days or weeks.
"The old way was to produce slides for these talks and distribute
print materials at the meetings," says Heckel. "The `new’
way is to organize the materials online and download the information
in the form of images, forms, articles, etc." Instead of midnight
calls for a slide that a doctor needs for a meeting, the doctor can
go to the site at midnight and download the image or materials.
haven’t become obsolete yet," says Heckel, "but a simple
and a computer projector are what we see about 80 percent of the
Heckel’s system is valuable because of its compression abilities (so
a 200k image can compress to 30k). The downloaded images are
Unlike PowerPoint images, they are protected from change. Also
are the extensive online databases. One has all the images on which
you can search.
"You can search on adverse events for a particular drug, get all
the data, images, and publications, and even a presentation if you
are a doctor talking on that," says Heckel. "Working in
with timing and feedback, we can tell who is on the page and what
they are interested in. We might see that we need more information
on a particular category."
Heckel has a customer service phone center that is managed by a
and a fulfillment center where materials, such as slides, can be
online and shipped.
Doctors can participate in online continuing medical education, which
gives them the credits they need for their specialty. For those who
can’t attend a talk, or for those who want to review it, a streaming
video version of the presentation — including the images shown
— is available online. The complete version can be downloaded
by those with a cable modem or DSL, but those with a 56k modem are
not left out. They can listen to the audio and view the still images.
"We’ve got it all figured out," says Heckel.
"This lecture materials delivery system is catching on because
our clients are seeing how much time and money (enormous amounts of
money) it saves them," says Heckel. "It identifies who wants
the materials and creates one solution for consultants, speakers,
medical affairs, scientific operations, brand teams, and participating
"These are not small projects," says Heckel. "We connect
thousands of physicians online and alert them to breaking news or
important announcements. Throw in multiple types of sales forces
in bringing a product to market and you are talking significant
"The power of this is when a new drug comes out," says Heckel.
"For a recently launched diabetes drug, doctors needed the images
to go out and talk about the new therapy. We opened a website with
only 68 images, but in nine months we had 52,000 downloads or pieces
of information ordered or downloaded."
It takes a long time to sell one of these contracts. "You have
to go through all the IT people in the pharma industry," says
Heckel, "and they all say `We wish we had thought of that.’"
And the rash of mergers does not make it easier. "But we’re
in to see the vice presidents of companies," says Heckel.
Nevertheless, the projects are labor intensive, and Heckel is
to meet demand. "There is a whole lot of management that goes
into this, because managing four products can occupy eight people
nonstop," says Heckel. An alumna of Arizona State, Class of 1973,
she has a master’s degree in health sciences and worked for the Bureau
of Indian Affairs, Harper & Row, and Manhattan-based medical
firms before moving to Princeton. After a stint at Excerpta Medica
she founded her firm in 1987 to do events planning. Now she has a
staff of 15 plus consultants, including a technical partner, Tim
of Nextwave Productions. She is hiring "good sharp account and
product management people who want to do something unique."
Park, Princeton 08540. Ann Heckel, president. 609-921-0209; fax,
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