Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Reflection on What we Lost with Pharmalot

A brief return of grief as I reviewed a Pharmalot thread from April, 2008, that I use in my teaching. It can be accessed at:

While the original topic was not exactly inspirational (!), it led to what I think was one of the best interchages we ever had between "insiders" and others about the industry. The very possibility of that kind of discussion is unique. As far as I know, it just didn't happen anywhere else.

I am not surprised we have little or none of it here. Most industry folks went to Pharmalot to get their news updates, not to "shmooze." But I was struck by a comment of Ed's that appeared in this thread - that, in the process of exchanges, a community was bring created.

There is probably no way of reviving that community, but - if anyone reading this has ideas of things we could do here in hopes of recapturing even a small bit - they would be very welcome.

And thanks to all who have been stopping by.


  1. This is off-topic, but be sure to take a look at the commentaries on physicians' relationships with industry published yesterday in BMJ.


  2. Thanks, Marilyn. Read our friend, Vera, about it.

  3. Link to BMJ commentary is:

  4. Justice, how would one go about getting the Krumholz & Ross Rules codified?

    In response to your question, PharmaLittle will find its niche. Do you have any idea how many people read the site now, and how they found the site? You could use a written roll call to get readers to post their "names" and how they found PharmaLittle. This activity may lead to some free advertising venues.

  5. Nancy - Thanks to our crack technical department, we have a pretty good idea how many visits we're getting, how many new visits, etc..

    Of course, these are trade secrets and internal studies, so we are free not to disclose anything about that.

    (Actually, we are pleased that posts here have been picked up, and commented upon, on a number of other sites. What I miss, of course, is the ready-made group of conversants that Pharmalot provided - especially people who don't necessarily see things that way I do (not that there's anything wrong with that...)!

  6. Doug Bremner tipped me off to PharmaLittle.

  7. We need to speak to our President COOL about having a way for people to anonymously (or not) send us "tips" and suggestions on what content we can put up here....

  8. I don't know if this will help, but I think what made Pharmalot unique (to me) was that Ed largely sat the in "background" and never gave much of an opinion beyond what was written in the articles. If we didn't like what he was presenting, or the way that he was presenting it, we let him know (in our comments). That spurred conversation. Ed remained (largely) neutral while we battled it out in the comment thread. People in industry (like me) came there to visit initially just for the news - he had commentary, insights, and speculation that are just hard to find elsewhere. Surpised as you may be, we (insiders) get most of our news about our own big-pharma employers from sites like Pharmalot -- not from our internal communications. We lowly scientists are left completely in the dark about the larger matters of running a pharmaceutical company.

    (Lately, I have to say that the WSJ health blog has done a pretty good job of replacing my daily dose of Ed's commentary -- but the "commentary" over there just isn't the same at all)

  9. Unfortunately, Justice, what you don't have is a full-time person (much less an experienced journalist) scouring the internet for industry information and presenting it in easily digested tidbits. Not to mention the original research and interviews Ed did. IMHO, that was what made Pharmalot great. There are many websites that report on the healthcare industry, but they all seem to focus on just a part of it. Ed had a very broad scope and a reporter's instinct for what people would be interested in.

    I think Former Marketing's suggestion is a good one. In my own roving of the 'net, I find stories that I think you may be interested in, but my only means of telling you is in the comments. So I try to keep it to a minimum and on-topic so as not to be annoying. If you had a drop-off box I could throw more things your way and you could decide if they're appropriate to your interests.

    Back to the question - Ed also had the backing and promotion of an industry-centered news organization in the NJ Star Ledger. On the 'net, as on Earth, location, location, location!

  10. Actually, I have a more concrete reason that the pharma "insiders" crowd hasn't jumped in on this site: There is nothing of interest for them. Let me explain:
    The primary interest for those of us in industry are stories that will directly impact our jobs: Mergers, approvals, delays, health care trends, etc. This site, so far, has largely focused on patient oriented issues -- not "pharma buisness" oriented issues. I'm not implying that we don't care about patients -- but most of us in the pharma industry have never met a patient treated with our drugs. But we know (and care for) our fellow employees, the science, and the "buisness" of pharmaceuticals. It's these latter issues that are lacking on this site and is (likely) why few of the "insiders" from Ed's website came knocking over here.

  11. A case to make my point: The Wyeth/Pfizer news last week completely rocked the pharmaceutical world. Yet no mention of it here...

  12. Coupla quickies - For reasons Nancy mentioned, we had no aspiration to replace Pharmalot as a news source. Indeed, no one here is either trained, or paid, to be a full-time journalist. Or has spent ten years collecting contacts. So that was never our model (or possibility).

    I also get "news" from the WSJ and similar lists, of which there are no shortage. The goal here was to recreate - not news - but a smattering of genuine discussion. And also to try kinds of threads that Pharmalot never did - a little humor, raising issues as issues (as opposed to latest headlines), and so on. We are a collection of professionals, but not a jouralist among us.

    Re: Wyeth/Pfizer, it's a good example. The story was covered to smithereens elsewhere. There seemed little reason to go there here. Pfizer's record bust for off-label, which _might_ have been a headline had the deal not been annnounced when it was, seemed more interesting and creative.

    Harpy - love the idea of a drop box. Or you could just email to one of us. If me, it's

    BTW, the threads that have been most viewed (by far) are the discussion ones: "Help me out, smart people" etc., and the humor (Peanuts remains popular!. So that may be playing to our strengths and not trying to be what we're not.

    That said, I agree with Nathan that the WSJ commentary/discussion is lame to non-existent. It's a bit of that that would be great to see more here.

  13. Guess I'd add this too - the "Ox Me Another" thread was all about Pfizer/Wyeth in terms of the industry's wider business model and one blog's take on what is needed. (And which also needed some translation for some of us!).

    I think I'd view the lay-off news in the same context. To have a general discussion of "the economy" - which relevant - might not get us far here.

    But to understand better the particular stresses on pharma as an industry, the various calls for change that have been coming for many years, and the question of whether any of that might happen - that would be really interesting. That, in essence, was what that good old thread on Pharmalot was about.

  14. Justice, I understand completely that you don't have the time/energy to do the type of work that Ed did. But you seemed to be asking why industry folks weren't participating over here the way that they did at Ed's site. Anyway, those were my thoughts on why some of the "insiders" didn't follow you over here to continue the conversations. From my end, I've been more preoccupied of late worrying about my job status than about who the next head of the FDA is going to be....

  15. Nathan - I agree with you. And, in truth, there were only a few really regular industry folks on on the Lot - you, Atlex, Jack2, Sal, and a couple of others.

    I think I know why, but - way short of trying to be Ed, which we'll never be - my "is there a way" question wondered whether there might be "draws" here for industry folks that would be different, but still engaging, for at at least some. For example, the exchange on preemption - more academic and challenging (including self-challeninging) that what usually happened on the Lot - seemed one such possibility. But that may also be the kind of "academic" discussion of greater interest to law profs than industry folks.

    Anyway, we'll continue to try to learn from our readership as well as try to make the best use of the strengths we have. As you know, most blogs are essentially the opinions of one or two folks. Comments are, at best, "add-ons" and rarely lead to anything resembling developing conversation. That is certainly not the model here.

  16. Pharmalot Lost…

    As an involuntary ex-druggie (Pharmalot reader), I am having difficulty focusing on important issues. Why the “H” did Ed have to leave? No matter your league, he was the loved and subtle conductor of a growing and diverse community. It seemed to me everyone was there, scientists, journalists, govt. leaders, wives, husbands, weird Uncle Harry, and they all added to the interest and learning that was Pharmalot.

    We cannot recapture Pharmalot. But, perhaps, we can re-kindle its spirit of community. And, who knows? Ed might escape from his evil corporate dungeon.

  17. Agree with Diane. Now I spend all my time with Aunt Mollie. Ed offered me something else to do.

  18. Uncle Harry, Aunt Molly told me she misses Pharmalot...

  19. I know. I just made her a PB&J sandwich. She'll feel better now.

  20. We're love sick:

    Justice, what do you think about bringing Ed in for an interview? Now THAT would draw a crowd!

  21. Ah hah!!! Nancy, great idea! Of course, we will have to clear it with his agent, and who knows what his honorarium would be! But it's a terrific suggestion.

    You get the Eureka prize, which will arrive in a large truck. Ed McMahon will be there (if we can book him).

    But seriously - great idea!

  22. Thanks, Justice. I look forward to hearing what Ed has been up to lately.

  23. I think what is missing here is that Googling Ed's stories provided links to his site. If any one of us mentioned Kindler or Grassley or whoever, Google showed a Pharmalot hit. That costs money. Have a problem with Pfizer? Google them and there is a hit (or two or three) for Pharmalot. Those hits draw anyone concerned with what is being said about them. This is why Pharmalot drew such a huge industry audience or anyone else searching for information.

  24. Missing Ed? Click on Nancy for an update.

    Anonymous, maybe someone from the crack technology department at PharmaLittle will look into getting the site's URL posted on Google News at no charge(?). I believe there are tools that direct traffic to a site, however I am no techie.


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