Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pfizer & Dell get down with online social networks & blogging?

[Click on Post Title for Link to External Article]

Also read this one for Dell:

Another blog on Pfizer and Exubra you might say?! What can I do? Everyone's doin' it, so I had to too.. ;). I will try to make this interesting though...

Okay, so we all learned (learnt) about Pfizer's earnings this past week.

There was a slightly heavy write-off on the failure of Exubra (about $2.8 bn you might say). And some of us also probably read about Nektar's CEO steaming about how Pfizer didn't even let them know about the fact that they were dropping Exubra and they had to learn about it from Pfizer's earnings call...

Come on, what are press releases for, eh, Howard Robin? You should be reading them, and Pfizer was testing you...

If you ignore this dark side of Pfizer where they blindside their own collaborators, you can begin to look at their "positive" side. And that is this:

They realized the problem with Exubra's sales was "marketing".

I see. So, it had nothing to do with 'inhalable insulin' being one of biotech's biggest challenges or that Nektar seemingly modified a supersized birdfeeder (read the "bizjournals" reference to a blogger saying so..wasn't me!) to cause the delivery of Exubra.

Oh I am sure Exubra's failure had to do with marketing. Why wouldn't it? Just look at how well Pfizer handled its PR with Nektar...through a press release. Its like breaking up over the phone...

Anyhow, now that the really long premise has been set for the whole post, lets look at Pfizer's next move to mitigate their "marketing" goof up. They are going "facebook" on physicians.

They are now going to walk the online landmine that is "Sermo". Sermo, apparently Latin for conversation (because latin is very relevant) is a take on the erstwhile "stitch n' bitch" approach that doctors usually take to advance their practice.

Apparently Sermo doesn't regulate what the doctors post after it verifies that in fact they are MDs. (In other issues I found this FAQ badly in need of grammatical touch-up, "How will Sermo paying clients use information from the Sermo community?"). Plus, rightfully enough, the MDs don't need to reveal who they are when they post...

Could all this mean more PR problems for Pfizer in the future? Potentially! Maybe they should merge the PR and Marketing departments to "strategically" "leverage" their "operational advantages" to "maximize" something or the other.

I can totally understand why they would use an "innovative" technique to solve a fundamental problem. After all "old-school" techniques such as plain talk with doctors won't lead to good marketing results now, would they?

Meanwhile, I think Dell has actually done something meaningful with online collaborations to try and improve its stature among its customers. Mostly because they make a consumer product, and they cannot reach out to thousands of customers on a personal basis.

As for me, I hope Sermo's execs read Pfizer's press releases closely (A Google Alert might help). And, if this trend continues, eHarmony and might have another "vertical" "channel" to explore.

PS: Just feeling very sarcastic today. Most of the double quotes refer to "corporate speak" that you could download onto flash cards and spend many a lazy afternoon making up meaningless gibber...for fun! It could land you a job with PR, Marketing, Cross Department Collaboration, Business Development or Executive Management!!!

PS2 (not to be confused with Sony's suffering product line): I was looking for the "birdfeeder" reference and came up with:

Oh, so much fun...

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Medical Device Blogging: J n' J by the way, is down wit bloggin' & other emerging paradigms....

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If you have paid any attention to the blogosphere at all, there are only a handful of medical device professionals blogging. I don't blog exclusively on medical devices, so I may not count. However here is my micro-analysis on this issue...

There are probably four categories of blogs on medical devices:

1. Blogs by medical device professionals - designers, engineers (R&D, manufacturing, quality), consultants, regulatory professionals, marketing professionals etc. This also includes physicians blogging with a focus on medical devices.

2. Blogs by medical device publications, newsletters, magazines etc.

3. Blogs by medical device companies, company leaders and company-sanctioned blogs

4. Blogs by investors and investment trackers on medical device companies.

We have discussed category 1 before. Mine may qualify as one. is definitely another. This and some of the blogs by professionals are of quite high quality.

Now, to category 2.

Most of the blogs so far that have come outside the realm of individual professionals have come from magazines and other publication sources. To be honest, though I even list many of them, I don't think they are truly "blogs". Many of these are what I call "creative paraphrisations" of articles and press releases.

These blogs tend to walk clear of any controversy, the bloggers and companies not wanting to piss off current and future supporters I guess. Not a bad idea, if you want to stay in business...

My take on blogging - or web blogging is completely different. Armed with the duality of the 1st amendment and the expressive freedom donated by the internet, it should be a venue for people to express their opinions freely, especially when companies do things wrong. Respectfully pointing out these mistakes should not be a problem.

However, with television, in blogging too, I have noticed it is the controversial ones that become famous. That may not be all too bad if these controversy creators are responsible and are not doing it just to gain more hits.

Whatever be the case, I would not categorize blogs of group 2 as very valuable unless they tend to offer an opinion, a critique, an analysis or some other tool or output that professionals, observers and investors can use or discuss.

As to category 3, J&J's attempt seems to be the first of it kind from a large medical device company, definitely not the first of its kind in medical devices. There are probably a few blogs by smaller companies - I don't know yet.

The blog seems tame enough and even the blog roll is well, "whitewashed". And the comment policy seems to come from a scared PR department...

This will be a good observation opportunity for blogs in this category. Will it just be lip service to the company's PR line? Or will it be more frank and open? Will it do anything to create a pathway for other companies to follow? Or will it just disappear in ether?

Category 4 is from investors, investment analysts and VCs, etc. These blogs provide valuable information on how Wall Street views the field from outside - something that does get lost in the noise. With all the "bigwigs"-to-be of the industry doing really bad - in the stock market, with the FDA and elsewhere; and oodles of companies getting funded, these blogs should provide some interesting perspectives.

I dont know if there is a category 5, but there are blogs by individuals, groups, foundations, companies, individuals suffering or surviving special diseases etc. These blogs provide a pivotal support role on the perspective or the more hackneyed "big picture".

In my opinion categories 1 and probably 5 provide the most value for professionals to use in the future. Category 2 needs a lot of work. Categories 3 and 4 provide us all with the most entertainment and for us emerging "device geeks", new stories to throw out in our discussions...

So, blogging is growing in our field. Let us see where it takes us. Wonder who will be the first to get fired for "blogging"? I hope its not me ... lol!

In my opinion medical device professionals should blog more. This will help standardize issues and opinions across the board. After all, we are the least organized and recognized professionals across several engineering and scientific fields.

I think blogging has been a primary driver especially for industries such as IT. That has yet to catch up here. Let us wait and watch....

I do have one problem with J&J's blog: "Why am I not on your blogroll?" :p

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

GSK to rescue us from USPTO final rules or the "Work Reduction Program"?

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So the public comment period for the USPTO final rules ended around the second week of October and I was a little surprised to see so little action. And then I came across this post on "The Patent Prospector" Blog. GSK is apparently trying to get the courts to take a look at the final rules and how inventors will be unfairly affected by the final rules.

All of this is based on, what is atleast obscure to me, "The Patent Act confines the PTO's powers to regulating internal procedures in practice before the agency." (lifted verbatim from The Patent Prospector Blog)

If you feel adventurous enough, try to read "35 U.S.C. § 2(b)(2). Section 2(b)(2) " and the blog post to understand more of this. Apparently the federal courts have ruled that "Section 2(b)(2) does not confer on the PTO the power to issue substantive rulemakings".

In effect, I am hoping this means, the USPTO simply cannot "do this". That is good enough for me. Thank you GSK! (like someone posted on the comments). However, what I don't get is this: I think in totality there was just one other case filed by an "inventor dude". Other than that, none of these deep - pocketed companies that "believe in product innovation to maximize the value to our customers" make even a half-hearted attempt to fight the USPTO. How not so surprising! Nor were the omnipresent ACLU or any of their frat bros interested.

Well, I hope the courts rule that the USPTO "final rules" are fit for the trash can. Good Enough!!

It must have been quite a party the day they announced their big "work reduction program". Keep your pay checks and have very little to do. Must have sounded great. Next they would have issued rules to say "Claims should fit on one side of an A4 sheet typed in size 12 font and with no less than 2 drawings". Ah, well, those would have been the days...

But is anyone going to do anything to prevent the USPTO from being naughty again in the future? Who is going to tell Santa Claus that while people work hard to make progress in their lives and society, the USPTO decided to distract public money, time and attention to make seemingly illegal "rulemakings" ?

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