P.R.: The way I view the blog, which has a very extensive legal disclaimer about how to view the blog and what its all about, its like the Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Its serious but it has a lot of fun with a situation and surrounding issues. So its taking the important issues but making it entertaining.
I get bored myself. If I were just writing about whats bad with pharma, it would get really dull and nobody would read the blog. Secondly, not everything is bad with pharma. Theres a lot of good stuff there. Its an industry I supported for 20 years. I just think we should change certain things. So I just point out some of these issues. But I also write about broader issues. And Im finding my way as a writer. But I wouldnt have the readers I do if I hadnt had some fun with it and enjoyed it.
E.S.: So youre saying its a strategy. You didnt just stumble into what youve blogged about?
P.R.: Its a strategy to make it entertaining.
E.S.: Did you start out that way?
P.R.: Yeah. I tried different topics that spanned quite a bit.
E.S.: Do you ever feel that you drill so deeply into something and say to yourself: Maybe Ive gone too far? Maybe its time to go to a different topic? Maybe I appear as if I cant let go and should let go?
P.R.: No, because I have a background and special knowledge in the pharma industry, it would be strange if I didnt cover it. And point it out interesting tidbits and facts as they come up. But that doesnt mean youre harping on the same issue.
For instance, when it comes to reimportation of drugs and pricing, I havent written much about that for a long time. And quite a few people have pointed out that its pharma blog, but I dont write much about pharma. So for a couple of reasons, people may think Ive moved on, in that sense, and Ive written about things that are fun to read about.
E.S.: Where are you taking the blog now? Will it be about something other than the pharmaceutical industry?
P.R.: Im undecided. Its a blog, which means you do whatever you feel like for that particular day. Youre impacted by the readers comments and what they seem to like. Im a marketing person and Im interested in what my readers are interested in and what they care about. And so Ive used different tools where I could have the readers vote on what they wanted me to write about pharma, interesting stories about this or that. And so I have all the data, and basically, my blog very well reflects what readers have decided to see. Half the people want to see things about the drug industry and then you have a couple of other categories that were more off-topic.
E.S.: What other kind of writing do you plan to do?
P.R.: My next project, what Im really waiting for now, is some fiction writing. My first manuscript is for a fiction thriller has just been completed and Im waiting to do a conference call with my agent.
E.S.: Will the pharmaceutical industry be in there?
P.R.: Its a big-company thriller. Its set in the drug industry, because its something I know and I can bring more reality to it. And the amazing part is that, some of things I wrote that I thought were fiction, I learned later werent fiction. Like when I found out Pfizer has a high-tech security bunker with monitoring equipment, where Jeff Kindler had himself shot in a picture for Pharmaceutical Executive.
I didnt know that such a thing existed, but I used something like that quite a bit in the book. I was just surprised that reality was ahead of me. The next step is to see if we can sell the manuscript. It 100 times harder to sell a fiction manuscript, compared with non-fiction.
E.S.: How is the pharmaceutical industry portrayed?
P.R.: I think the pharmaceutical industry is portrayed realistically. It really shows the fights internally, between the companies. Its warfare what goes on. You talk about warfare when it comes to gaining market share. Between the different people internally, who try to survive, who try to get up to the highest position, its a battle. Its a daily battle.
This is fiction, a thriller. So clearly, it takes things a couple of steps further than you may see in any company, but the way people behave and interact, I really try to capture that.
E.S.: Do you think youll get pegged as somebody whos trying to beat up the industry?
P.R.: I think I was pegged as that a long time ago, which really isnt quite true.
E.S.: So, youre not the anti-pharma?
P.R.: Listen, I gave 20 years of my life to pharma. I would like to to run a pharma company. My point is that some of the guys who are running pharma are doing the wrong things from a marketing point of view, the wrong thing for society, and theyre doing the wrong thing for the industry. And thats part of the reason theyve done so poorly.
Theres a reason Hank McKinnell lost 40 percent of his stock value. I think pharma is needed and is important. My experience is theres tons of very good people in the industry.
But of course, none of these people are used to one of their own standing up and saying the emperor doesnt have any clothes. And then some of them get very upset. And things get polarized and youre cast as anti-pharma.
E.S.: Are you locked in this position where you have to be visible and vocal and critical in order to sell your blog, your books and get any sort of consulting? Assuming you cant find a position you like, which you say is unlikely.
P.R.: Well, it wouldve been wonderful if I had the book ready a year ago. I think a lot of people have written a lot about my story. So now that the book is out, I have to repeat some of it. Clearly, for an author, its important to be visible. But you and I both know that I cant just create PR and stories, because it has to be real, and really adds on to the story. So I dont think it would work if I just tried to keep up with issues. The more you try to keep people informed, the less theyll listen, because it just becomes a nuisance. Thats the art of trying to be out there.