In this month’s Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine feature article, “The Inside Man,” Mr. Jeffrey Kindler — recently named new CEO at Pfizer — is said to hold in his hand, “both literally and symbolically, some of the most pressing intellectual-property, innovation, and security issues facing the pharmaceutical industry today.”

[It’s a little funny that PharmExec (PE) calls Kindler an “inside man” when Pfizer’s board and Hank McKinnell justified his choice because he was an “outside man.” BTW, PE shows Kindler in Pfizer’s “global security bunker at company headquarters.” Does Pfizer really call it that? If so, it says volumes about the state of the pharma industry these days! Bunkers, as we all know, often do not bode well for the occupants.]

“The lifeblood of a research-based, innovative company like ours is our intellectual property,” Kindler says. “Apart from our people, our most important asset is our intellectual property. That’s obviously very critical to innovation and to having the ability and the incentives to develop the new medicines of tomorrow.”

Getting vs. Keeping
If you ask me, Kindler is actually putting “people” second after corporate legal tactics. People — scientists, marketers and sales people — is what a truly innovative pharmaceutical company needs to get new drugs into the pipeline and into the marketplace. Fighting counterfeiters and winning patent cases is what pharma companies need to extend the life of their products.

The question is, which is more vital for a company like Pfizer — getting new drugs on the market or extending the life of drugs already on the market? Which is innovative? Which will help the company the most in the long term?

Buying Innovation
Kindler as CEO signals a more aggressive policy of Pfizer to follow the latter path rather than the former. It also signals that Pfizer will buy innovation through mergers and acquisitions, something with which Mr. Kindler has some experience.

At McDonald’s — the well-known breeding place of several pharmaceutical executives such as … sorry, I can’t name any other than Kindler — Mr. Kindler “bought the real estate of Boston Market out of bankruptcy.” This is how Pharmaceutical Excecutive Magazine described it. Does this mean that Kindler literally bought the ground under the stores? True or not, it’s an interesting concept because location is everything in the fast food world.

Versus Buying the Innovators
What location is to the fast food industry, science is (or should be) to the pharmaceutical industry. I suggest, therefore, that Mr. Kindler buy the science — ie, scientists — of innovative companies and leave the empty shells behind. That would be innovative compared with the usual practice of partnering first to develop or market a product and then, if successful, buy the partner lock, stock, and barrel.

Why not just buy the talent?

Good idea, except Wall Street cannot wait for it to pay off.

What About the Hens?
But I am really in no position to judge how well a CEO Mr. Kindler will be or what his strategy should be. I’m more interested in the “hens” in Pfizer’s sales and marketing henhouse. Will they be happy with the former general counsel running things?

[If you are one of these “hens,” please feel free to submit some anonymous comments.]

Marketing & Sales Layoffs Loom?
One thing you know is going to happen — layoffs! Pfizer hinted at this a long time ago (see “Pfizer to Slash 30% of its Sales & Marketing Staff“), but never really carried it through. Kindler may do it, especially if his focus is on patent extension rather than market expansion (you don’t need sales and marketing for the former). He certainly will have to show Wall Street analysts that he is serious about cutting costs!

Traditionally, marketers view compliance folks — who work for the general counsel — more as a hindrance than a help. Certainly, there needs to be oversight of sales and marketing practices, but I don’t think marketers would like to have a lawyer in charge of marketing strategy as well!

Is Kindler Right for Pfizer?
Don’t Know
Don’t Care

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