Tunnah’s musings: 9.63 seconds

Paul Tunnah

pharmaphorum

Inspired by the 2012 London Olympics and the performances of the many great athletes, Paul Tunnah muses on the discipline it takes to be a Gold medal winner and whether the pharma industry can learn from the 9.63 seconds it took Usain Bolt to run the 100m final.

You can sense the collective hangover dawning on people now that the 2012 Olympic Games have finally drawn to a close (at least we have the Paralympics to look forward to!). For the past few weeks, London has been electric, alive with the buzz of many nations, the medal winning athletes and superhuman record breakers. Now we all settle back into real life, but perhaps the echoes of the many great moments we have witnessed in the last few weeks should not be forgotten. Perhaps there are lessons in those moments for our normal everyday lives.

9.63 seconds.

The time it took Usain Bolt to run 100m and write his own chapter in the history book of legends as two time sprint Olympic Gold medallist, shortly to be followed by the same feat in the 200m. He made it look remarkably easy, almost as if he was not trying and anyone could do it. But behind that ‘easy’ win is a lifetime of hard training. Hours and hours of strength and fitness training, miles upon miles of running, day after day of gruelling sprinting. The ‘instant success’ that is Usain Bolt is built on a marathon of years of determination towards this one goal. Preparation, hard work and sacrifice have justified themselves in one short moment.

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“The ‘instant success’ that is Usain Bolt is built on a marathon of years of determination towards this one goal.”

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9.63 seconds.

The time it takes to write and send a simple tweet in 140 characters or less. Perhaps a short message sent by a pharma company to let investors know about its latest financial results, or a new corporate social responsibility initiative in a developing nation to reduce the burden of infectious disease. Perhaps it is sent by a marketing consultancy, digital agency or clinical research organisation to demonstrate their expertise or to advertise a new job and secure fresh talent. Readers of that tweet could be amused, excited and impressed by what they read. But if it’s badly judged the company’s reputation could be damaged or even irreparably destroyed. Has Usain Bolt-like preparation gone into that Tweet?

9.63 seconds.

The duration of a doctor’s pen gliding across paper as they write a prescription for the patient sat in front of them. Whether it’s a straightforward case or a more complex disease, their medical training takes over – years and years of studying and reading to keep up to date with the most appropriate treatments. The impact of every interaction with a drug rep, every set of clinical data they have studied and every seminar at a pharma company sponsored congress having a bearing on a decision made so quickly, but of vital importance to the patient. Is it the right decision? Has the right information been used in making it? Would it stand up to the rigour of Bolt’s training?

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“Quick decisions to make, but extremely important ones that should be based on a mass of information and careful analysis to rival Bolt’s four-year campaign.”

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9.63 seconds.

The time it takes a pharma company executive to decide on the right course of action for a developmental drug. It could be the decision to go / no-go in early research or a judgement on whether it is worth striking a licensing deal to take the treatment further. Perhaps it is a more complex decision, based on the right phase II trial direction, which comparator to use, which patient population and how to screen and recruit for the trial itself. It could be further down the line with a decision on which indication to launch in, or what price is appropriate for the drug and how to ensure access to patients who cannot afford to pay. It could even be the decision at the end of a drug lifecycle around whether to defend that tail-end patent and delay the entry of generics. Quick decisions to make, but extremely important ones that should be based on a mass of information and careful analysis to rival Bolt’s four-year campaign.

9.63 seconds.

The time it takes for a patient to say that final goodbye to their family. Every treatment option has reached its limit, every alternative explored and no more possibilities remain. Medical science has done as much as it can for one individual, there are simply no more interventions that can offer hope beyond what has already been tried. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved the progression of the disease cannot be halted. The patient’s fight would put to shame even Bolt’s efforts and hopefully it has been supported by a similar support network from the physicians, caregivers, family and the pharma industry – one to rival that of Bolt’s extended team of coaches and sponsors. Like the Silver medallist pipped at the post, can this patient know that everything has been done that could have been – no stone has been left unturned?

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“Like the Silver medallist pipped at the post, can this patient know that everything has been done that could have been…”

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So whilst the Olympics may be over, all those who work in healthcare and pharma should stay inspired by the example set by those athletes at the top of their game. Every decision we take should be scrutinised and reinforced by Gold medal winning efforts behind the scenes.

Collectively, all those 9.63 second decisions and interactions made every day can make a massive difference to patients if they are made with that same rigour. Are your 9.63 second decisions supported by the same effort as Bolt’s 100m Olympic Gold?

Be inspired and, until next month, stay well.

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About the author:

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of www.pharmaphorum.com, the primary facilitator of thought leadership and innovation for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

What inspiration can pharma draw from the Olympics?