Big Pharma's 'intellectual arrogance' stunts CMO partnerships, says GPCM Chair

Big Pharma not getting the most from third-parties due to 'intellectual arrogance,' an ex-GSK Director told the GPCM Conference

Efficient relationships with contract manufacturers are being held back by Big Pharma’s ‘intellectual arrogance’ and ill-defined operational teams, according to an ex-Director at GlaxoSmithKline.

“Innovation and ideas come from contractors. Most of us who have spent most of our lives in the pharmaceutical business in Big Pharma companies tend to have what I refer to as intellectual arrogance,” said Jim Browne, Director of JTB Consultancy, at last month’s Global Pharmaceutical Contract Manufacturing (GPCM) Conference in London, UK.

Browne, who spent ten years as Director of External Supply at GSK, argued that the history of having the best scientists and developers in-house was driving the fallacy that Big Pharma knows how to develop and manufacture products better than third-parties and this, with the continuing trend to outsource, could be holding partnerships back.

“If we were actually less arrogant and more open we might find that many of these contractors are much faster on their feet, and much smarter than we are,” Browne added. “[CMOs] are dealing with smaller margins, and lots of different companies. They pick up lots of ideas and they can be much more innovative than we are.”

He continued: “We very often fall into the trap of going and telling contractors what to do, whereas in fact if we went in a more open way we might actually end up with a more efficient process.

“We [pharma] tend to be dogmatic and I think there is a big learning point there.”

One voice to rule them all…

During Browne’s talk, he also gave advice on the best practice of how a pharma operational team communicates with a third-party, avoiding what he said was “the problem of multiple voices, multiple messages and the ability of the contractor to play one [operational team member] off against another.”  

He told the room it is necessary to have one voice from the pharma organisation, incorporating the procurement, supply chain, functional and quality people, in order to issue a clear message to the contractor and to ensure the contract has the relevant accountability.

He advised an integrated team could manage several CMOs, depending on the contracts, and could be organised either by region or by dose form.

“My preference (at GSK) was to do it by regions,” he said, splitting the regions with a large number of contracts (Europe and North America) into teams based on product type.

“If it was a smaller region then I would put them all together,” he said. “Having someone in the region who can visit the contractors fairly regularly and understands the working systems in that area, and speaks the right language is a big benefit.”

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