Why did I join a CRO

I’ve been in pharma for 19 years now. I worked in various areas mostly in late phase area – post regulatory approval and phrase 3. I worked in different big and mid-sized pharma companies and worked in local, European, and global organizations. I’ve seen a lot of things in different areas and I learned a lot what works and what didn’t work so well in pharma. I have learned a lot and now I want to take the next step.

I want to impact the decision-making. I want to improve how we communicate with physicians, payers, and patients in a much better way. I want to help this area and I cannot do that in one company – so that’s why I moved to a CRO: Veramed.

So, today, I’ll be sharing with you my experiences and my journey where you’ll surely get great points and practical tips:

  • Learnings in Pharma
    • Local, regional, global
    • Different companies
    • Different structures
  • Help company one at a time
  • My bigger vision
  • Problems in the industry
  • How to change the industry
  • How I want to create a team
  • Why I target those who want help
  • How I want to show what good looks like
  • Why I want to build community
  • Why Veramed
    • Great company culture
    • Awesome people
    • Fast to act
    • Open for ideas
    • Focused on statistics and programming

Listen to this episode and share this with your friends and colleagues!


Episode 207 Why I Switched to a CRO

Alexander: You’re listening to the Effective Statistician podcast, the weekly podcast with Alexander Schacht, Benjamin Pisker and Sam Gardner that is designed to help you reach your potential, lead great science and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. 

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Today, this is a very personal episod. I’m talking about why I joined the CRO coming from a Pharma company. Stay tuned for this very personal episode.

 I’m producing this podcast in association with PSI, a community dedicated to leading and promoting the use of statistics within the healthcare industry for the benefit of patients. Join PSI today to further develop your statistical capabilities with access to the ever-growing video on demand content library, lots of free registration to PSI webinars, and with use traits for lots of other PSI stuff. Head over to psi-web.org to learn more about PSI, and become a PSI member today. 

 This is today a little bit of a different episode. It’s a little bit of an episode about my recent changes. I’ve been in Pharma for 19 years. I worked in various areas and mostly actually in the late phase areas to post regulatory approval and phase 3. I worked in different big pharma companies and mid-sized pharma companies. I worked in local organizations, in European organizations, in international organizations, in global organizations, and in all kind of different structures In case you work, like for me, 15 years in the same company, I have seen the company structure change a couple of times. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve worked in lots of different areas. I worked in the respiratory. I worked in virology. I worked in immunology. I’ve worked in psychiatry. I worked in areas like Alzheimer’s and things like this, in pain. In immunology, that was the fun part.

 I’ve seen a lot of different things. And I learned a lot, what works really well in Pharma. And I also have seen what didn’t work so well. Recently I built a really  nice team at a mid-sized, Pharma company. And when that team was built, I felt like ‘Great, but what’s next?’ And so, I always wanted to have an impact on the decision-making at a pair physician and patient level. I’m thinking about myself as a patient and when I look into the data as it is, this is offered to me as a patient, it’s actually pretty poor. If I look into the materials that I see that are offered to Physicians, both at conferences, but also through marketing and sales channels. It says lots of room for improvement. When I look into what payers get in terms of information. Wow, there’s a lot of improvement. There’s some set out actually doing very good and a lot of people said they really want to, you know, turn the needle. But very often, they fight alone. You know, the prophet in his own country is rarely heard. And so I wanted to step out of Pharma. I wanted to help, not just one company, I want to improve how we communicate with physicians, payers and with patients. And here, Physicians for me, is everything about healthcare providers in a much better way. The decision making process was really improved because I think, if people better understand everything around the disease, the treatment options, both the side effects, the benefits, convenience aspects, or of different things in a much better way, they can actually make better decisions for themselves, for their patients, for the population when it’s about payers. I want to help overall improve this area and I can’t do that only within one company, which is why I changed into a CRO. 

There’s a lot of further problems in this industry. The first is, there’s a lot of bureaucracy, that’s also why I went to not a small but midsize, I would say so. And the other problem is there’s a lot of missing collaboration, a lot of bureaucracy in the Pharma industry. I see that because I work with lots of different Pharma companies through the effect of a certain leadership program. You can’t believe what you see there when you work with procurement and different companies. First, you know, some companies, very fast, very easy, and some other companies, ‘Oh my God’, it takes ages. You just want to enroll a couple of students into the program. Well, that’s why some are fast and some are not so fast. 

There’s another problem. There’s generally a lack of awareness of the opportunities in space. A lot of people think about medical affairs, only in terms of HTA or only in terms of real-world evidence or only in terms of publications. That makes much more sense that there’s a lot of other opportunities in it. And I have talked about this at the PSI conference in 2021. Couple of case studies of what is actually out there in terms of medical affairs and here, speaking really in a broad sense, medical affairs, where we can help as statisticians. And I’m not even talking about all the pieces about, you know, business analytics and data science where we as statisticians come from, maybe more to the clinical side can have a huge impact.

 Another problem is that I see a lot of disconnect in many different companies. I see a disconnect between local and global organizations between affiliates and headquarters and there’s a lot of improvements possible. I think that is really difficult from within the company. It’s actually easier if you hear it from someone that views the company from an outside. And sometimes pretty, you know, maybe that is this kind of consultant effect. If your colleague says we could improve things dramatically. Nobody acts upon it. But if you know, the consultant comes and says, ‘hey, you could save two million dollars per year by changing this process’. Some people think, ‘Hmm, maybe I should listen to it’. So that’s another reason why I went out of Pharma because as I said, when you’re within it, you kind of have the sense that people don’t really listen to you. 

Actually, these people that don’t really listen to you are another big problem is that there’s a lack of leadership overall. Well, we have talked about this quite a lot and there’s people that are really kind of healthy, people that have great leadership skills, but overall, we really need to improve. And especially in this area of medical affairs where statisticians don’t have a seat at the table, just by a SOP. Because of that, there’s a lot of bad things happening. 

I was just reviewing at a big American Conference. Lots of different posters.  We’re coming from mid to big size Pharma. If you look into the names, they will probably know at least. 90% of these names. So it’s a common suspects I would say. And then you look into these  posters and you see that spot doesn’t make any sense. And I actually reached out to a couple of people in these companies and said, say it helped me. ‘Yeah, we have these problems because we are not involved in the publication process so we can really improve things. How on earth can you, as a statistician, be an author on a publication and not have a really good on how the publication should be read? This is kind of where you see the stats part and you think like ‘it doesn’t make sense’ kind of contradicting statements in it. What did you actually do here?

 It’s really something where we need better influencing skills. Well, if you listen longer to my podcast, I’m very outspoken about this. I really want to improve it. I really want to help more people in this area because I want to have an impact on better decision-making for patients, as I said earlier. I want to overall change the industry. 

If you want to change something, first you need to start with the vision of what it looks like.  I’ll surely talk more about these future podcasts. I talked a little bit about it earlier in this episode.

 The second thing that you need is to create a team. And that’s what I want to do at my new company. Create a team that shows what good looks like, that has a diverse background, that comes from across the globe, because I truly believe that you need to have lots of local knowledge, that you need to have some local language,you need to have local knowledge of the health system. All these things are very different.

 If you, for example, are setting in the U.S. and you have no clue of how the health systems in Europe look like. It’s really difficult to help the business partners here. You need to understand it. The same is true if you’re setting here in Europe and you don’t know how the U.S. system works. She has all her own. You need to have a very good understanding here. You also need to know about promotional regulations. What’s possible in the different countries?  Just because, you know, there is direct to customer advertising in U.S., doesn’t mean that it’s actually easy to use that in the U.S.  No, it’s actually a very specific process, but that doesn’t exist in the rest of the world. Yet, in other countries, you know, you can just promote honor, an abstract that you have somewhere or poster. And so, you need to know these kinds of different things.

 Also, use of real-world evidence is very, very different across the world. And it’s very often used like, real-world evidence has a huge impact on payers. Well, that depends on the payers. These kinds of statements you need to know about in some and much more nuanced way. 

So I want to build a team that has a lot of expertise, that is diverse. But also have fun doing things in this area. I want to have people that have fun working in, poster analysis and observational data in visualization, in indirect comparisons, network meta-analysis, in real-world evidence data, that want to work with people. They want to improve the situation here as well. If you really want to run a phase 2, phase 3 study, you’re probably not right  for my team. The other part is at the end of three Pockets, that really want to improve and say other Pockets said, don’t and I want to find the people. I want to find the parts of the industry where I can really have an impact.

 And if I’m just sitting in one company, I can only change certain Pockets within a company. If I’m sitting at a CRO, I can reach out to lots of different people. And if you are a statistician or program, if you both and you would like to improve where you are reach out to me, let’s have a chat and see how I can help you. 

Maybe it’s just a half an hour chat and you get a couple of really good ideas. You move forward with them. Great, if there’s further things coming down the line, create as well. I want to target those who really want help. Not those that are sitting at the other side of the innovation spectrum, those people that just now consider to buy smartphone, because there’s so, behind it.

 I also want to show what good looks like. There is lots of great stuff done, but it’s done not often enough. It’s not done consistently enough. So that is a part of  the problem. There’s always also an awareness. What does good look like?

 So, for example, in terms of working with key opinion leaders, I have talked about key opinion leaders in the past. Actually, if you scroll back to the very first couple of episodes as something about it, working with key opinion leaders is a great opportunity for statisticians because we have knowledge that they don’t have. They are  the experts in the therapeutics area, they know more about the treatments and usually your colleagues know, clinical colleagues. But they are not that statistician. They love to work together with you to understand the data really well, to understand, you know, the strengths and limitations, what’s possible with the data? So that’s for example, an area with as much improvement possible. 

I also want to increase roles and knowledge in our industry, in the said  area, and as a CRO that is much easier than within a Pharma company. Because in a Pharma company, I would be expected mostly to improve the knowledge within the Pharma company. As CRO, that’s different. So you will see a lot of training coming from me and a lot of webinars coming for me. Joining these, learn from these and increase your knowledge, that will help you to move forward in this area.

 Lastly, I want to build a community. I want to build a community of people across the industry that have the same vision that have the same goals of improving how we work in this area. Do the great stuff in easy ways. I still see that people that work in affiliates struggle to even get access to the data. I recently talked to someone that will lead a big company with an affiliate team. He said, I’m glad if we get access to the data in time. 

Well, how can you be successful with your product? If you don’t have the data in time. That’s because people only think in silos because they only think like, well, my goal is regulatory approval. I only care about this goal, and I don’t care about what happens thereafter. In these kinds of situations, you need a community, you need people that are outside of your company that said, “look, you know, this company is doing it, this company is doing it”. That statistically it is talking about it. That person is talking about it. You need these kinds of references to change within your company. Let’s it’s kind of backs to the to the things that I talked earlier about, the prophet in your own in his own country is rarely listened to. 

What company do I actually go to? I go to a company called Tyramide. and you have heard about this company already, if you listen to my podcast because I’ve interviewed people from this company.  Just scroll back a little bit,  I interviewed and also met Emma, who founded the company. The first great thing about this company is ,as you have heard from this episode, they are very much about quality. It’s not about quantity and profit. It’s about quality first. That is something that is close to my heart as well. I want to do great stuff. I just don’t want to get the tables across. I want to bring the message across and make sure that it reaches the point where it is most critically needed. When we can as payers,as Physicians, as patients make their decisions. The other point is true that they have created a really great company culture. and they have lots of awesome people on the team. I’ve worked before I even considered starting an environment. I’ve worked with lots of different people and it’s just awesome. It’s really great. and they are so fast and easy to work with. They are fast from the idea to acting on it. It doesn’t take ages before someone makes a decision.They are also very open to new ideas. They are innovative. They wanted to change things. They want to improve things. They are very much focusing also for helping new starters to get into the industry with their graduate program. I’ve talked about this and another under podcast as well. 

Another really key thing is that it’s not a biostats department of a big zero, the common suspects. The problem they are very often is that they don’t have a lot of leverage within the companies. If 95% of the contract is on everything but stats. Well, what is management going to look into? They  look into clinical operations. It’s all about clinical operations, data monitoring and all these kinds of different things. I think this is, I’m not sure what I should call it, is it a raise to the bottom in terms of, making it cheaper, and cheaper and standardized and more standardized across the industry. Of course, there’s, you know, lots of benefits in it, but I think the stats part doesn’t really fit into it. You can’t, standardized  completely stats. That it’s not about just delivering tables. If you think stats is just about delivering tables actually, very often, it’s better not to deliver tables, yeah. I’ve talked about that in an episode about, you know, the figures better than 1000 tables. And there’s couple of other things there. I really wanted to work in a company that is completely focused on stats and programming. and that’s another point for all of us.  

This is what I want to do, I want to overall improve the industry in that regard. And is it a big goal? Yes, it’s a big goal. Will I reach it? Well, hopefully to some extent. Will I get the overall industry completely moved around? Let’s see.

 It truly doesn’t depend only on me. It probably depends  more on how many people join and how we can best work together there. But it’s something that really inspires me, something that motivates me. It’s something that I probably can work on for quite a long time.  I just love this aspect of work,, there’s so much, crazy things that you can do in it. Well, craziness sense it, you don’t need to negotiate everything and anything with the FDA and in the email, you can try out new things. Because you think they make sense and not because they’ve written somewhere in a guideline.  There’s a lot of funds here and there’s so much untapped potential. There are so many things that we can improve and so that’s what I want to do.

 If you want to also change that just reach out to me, know, connect with me on LinkedIn. Send me a message there. I’d love to have a chat with you, if you have the same tools. Talk to you soon, listen further to this podcast and join all the other events that will come your way that will be about this space.

 This show was created in association with PSI and thanks to Raine. Well, supposed to show in the background and thank you for listening. This was a really personal episode. If you loved it, please let me know. Also, please share it. Yeah, show your love by sharing it on LinkedIn or another social media platform that you’re using. If you take me, I’ll surely relate to it and get back to you. Like always, I’m ending this with reach your potential, lead great science and serve patients, just be an effective statistician. 

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