Situation Heats Up At AstraZeneca: Web 2.0 Journalism in the Making

Need more reasons to celebrate the fact that you chose a career in the pharma industry other than sales?  If results of public opinion polls aren't enough to convince you, just look at what has been happening at AstraZeneca since Peter Rost made public the "buckets of money" comment that resulted in the dismissal of regional oncology drug sales manager Mike Zubillaga.  Today, in a case of unfortunate timing (as the two issues aren't likely to be connected), it was reported that the company's top U.S. sales executive had resigned to work for a smaller spinoff in Europe, with Pharmalot speculating that Tony Zook might assume the title. Even more interesting, though, is the fact that a "Group of Seven" within AstraZeneca, including the employee who sent the internal sales newsletter with the infamous quote to Rost, has sent Rost more evidence of marketing improprieties within the company, and has sent an open letter to the OIG.  More reporting on this from BrandweekNRX and Rost's blog, Question Authority. Drug companies are already on the qui vive as patient blogs, such as Diabetes Mine, become more powerful.  A negative comment on a blog like that can mean the difference between success and failure for a billion-dollar product. But now pharma must also look out for industry insiders, former and present.  Rost had worked in the industry for many years and knows its sales and marketing practices all too  well, which is likely what prompted AZ sources to trust him with this potentially career-destroying information. I doubt they'd have gone directly to the media---at least, not for quite a while. But the Group of Seven suggests that individuals within the industry may now also feel a bit more comfortable speaking out, openly, about problems and issues---anonymously and on their own time, and using their own computers, of course. Could this spark a wave outside of the sales and marketing area, prompting more people to talk about issues in drug research, development and manufacturing?  For any print journalists and editors struggling with the concept, this is the perfect case study in Internet 2.0 citizen/community journalism.  Arianna Huffington must be ruing the day that she dismissed Rost, who, in returning to his roots in the industry appears to have found his true voice as a blogger, and a second calling as a lightning rod for more transparency within the industry, on the sales and marketing side. Are there any more of you out there, outside of sales and marketing? In manufacturing, quality control, R&D, maintenance?  Within FDA? If you won't communicate to an outside "media" source, maybe you can opt to do it yourself  (on your own time and using your own computer!), as PharmaMarketing blogger John Mack has suggested? The industry can only benefit from more transparency, even if this openness makes things "messy" and uncomfortable for a while.  The bigger picture can't get much messier, when a healing industry is viewed the way it is today, so you'll be doing pharma and the public a favor. -AMS