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Why is Pfizer influencing Australian Constitution?
What has it got to do with Pharma?
Lately, I've been receiving questions about why Pfizer is pushing for a constitutional change in Australia, even though it doesn't seem directly related to health or pharmaceuticals. If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I recommend reading an excellent article by Rebekah Barnett on her substack.
In a nutshell, Pfizer is supporting the Government's stance on this constitutional change.
Let's look at the department that leads these activities to answer this. Typically, it's managed by people in Government Affairs and Policy Making.
LinkedIn gave me a generic Job Responsibilities of a Pharma Director of Government Affairs and Policy. They all seem pretty similar (I suspect they copy each other!). They often use complex language to make their responsibilities sound more complicated to justify higher salaries. I wish I were joking, but that's how things work in the corporate world!
Money is usually not a problem in the pharmaceutical industry. As a hiring manager, I typically have to convince HR to increase the Job Grades of the people I want to hire to attract the best talent out there. Job Grades determine salary and benefits, and when HR agrees to a higher grade, it usually solves the motivation aspect and attracts many quality candidates.
So, whenever we hire for a new role in Pharma, we sit down with HR to determine the job grade. They usually assess it in two dimensions:
Job responsibility: This is like a to-do list for the job. It includes all the tasks and duties you're supposed to handle in your role. It's like having a checklist of things you must accomplish at work.
Job complexity: This refers to how challenging or complicated the job is. It's about the difficulty or brainpower required to handle your responsibilities.
It's possible to have the same responsibilities but different levels of complexity. It depends on factors like the country's healthcare system, the organisation's size, and the regulations in place. For instance, a Sales Director in Luxembourg overseeing ten sales representatives would have a much lower job complexity than a Sales Director managing 200 sales representatives in France.
Anyway, let's get back to the main topic.
Let’s dive into the responsibilities of Government Affairs and Policy.
Here’s a screenshot I took from Linkedin, and let’s break it down one by one in my typical oversimplified and sarcastic fashion.
Leading engagement efforts with key government officials relating to legislation, regulation, pricing/reimbursement, and other policy initiatives:
The critical part of the job here is building relationships with Government Officials. Other departments spearhead legislation, Regulation, and Pricing/Reimbursements - but when it comes to direct point-to-point communication with Government Officials, they go through the Government Affairs department.
Leading government affairs activities to deliver business strategy, policy shaping, and reactive positions as well as environmental shaping activities to impact government, product, and the pharmaceutical industry environment:
The business outcome of Pharma is to sell more drugs. You need to understand how to influence government policies to sell more drugs. For example, provide the politicians with a very nice set of slides and arguments why drug subsidies need to increase. Building excellent, complex slides for your buddy in the government during his next senate session is one of the best ways to build relationships. It makes them look good, and they will remember your favour when launching your next-generation vaccine!
Working with key internal partners (regulatory, legal, commercial, medical, market access, communications, patient advocacy, etc.) to determine priorities for the business to shape GAP strategy:
This is just a word salad to say you need to be a great team player internally, especially with the folks doing the actual job. Reread point 1 on the part where another department spearheads things.
Let me also explain briefly the other roles mentioned:
Regulatory - The outsider often confuses this department with the Legal department. The Regulatory Department is responsible for understanding the process of getting drugs approved and smoothening this process so you get the latest vaccine in the market as fast as possible. Their key performance indicators are timelines of drug approvals. Sometimes, when we go to work, you can hear the sound of celebration and party from the Regulatory department. That's when we know a new drug is approved.
Legal - The lawyers. Self-explanatory. They make sure you don't break the law. The good ones tell you how to navigate the regulations to sell more drugs.
Commercial - The fundamental pillar of the business. To sell more drugs.
Medical - The people who usually take instructions from the Commercial Department (to sell more drugs) but provide a fictitious facade to the public and healthcare professionals that we are doing it for science instead of money. This is where KOL management comes in (Key Opinion Leaders Management). KOL are like Crypto Influencers; they make sure everyone views your drug positively from the "scientific" point of view.
Market access - usually a bunch of statistical nerds that do pharmacoeconomics studies. Ie. Studies show that if the government buys ten vaccines per person, it will be best for the economy because things will return to normal in 14 days.
Communications - The ones who led the effort in creating the "Vaccines Crisis Communications Manual". You can read more about it here.
Patient Advocacy - Another group that takes instructions from Commercial (sell more drugs) but creates a lovely story that we support patients. Typically, these people channel money to all kinds of Patient Support Groups to ensure they sing the same tune (Safe and Effective).
Building an advocacy plan that will accelerate the recommendation, introduction, and uptake of existing and new products and improve patient access:
Again, same as point 1. Take the initiatives from other departments (commercial, patient advocacy) and work with government officials to accelerate the initiatives.
Engaging and partnering with governments, politicians, payers, trade associations, think tanks, and other stakeholders on policy issues:
Just more word salad to say, mingling with politicians, important organizations, and other fancy folks. The motto is "You scratch my back, I scratch yours."
Conducting briefings, meetings, forums, and technical updates for legislators and regulators on issues of interest and concern:
It's just the official narrative, but big decisions are often made behind the scenes in strip clubs. The beautiful thing about working with Government officials is that the Sunshine Act does not cover it. You can splurge as much as you want on entertainment! I wrote about the Sunshine Act here:
The rank and file do everything else, so "official" minutes and records are taken in case of a Freedom of Information request.
Working closely with the market access team to monitor healthcare developments impacting orphan drugs and developing adequate risk mitigation plans:
Same as point 1.
Actively contributing to the global government affairs team and decisions on global GA strategy and initiatives:
Work closely with the team in Headquarters (and don’t be an arse because you’re Australian)
Responding to public consultations on behalf of the business to articulate policy positions:
Instead of giving the impression that we are doing things to sell more drugs, ensure the public understands that it is for their health and their own good.
Developing stakeholder mapping with customized advocacy with a clear alignment to business priorities:
Ensure you understand everyone who can influence policies in government, including their relationships with each other. Support the ones who can help you sell more vaccines in the future. For example, if they are running an initiative to change the government constitution, make sure you pledge your support!
Proactively identifying risks, opportunities, and future trends with a short- and long-term view and sharing these insights with the business:
You have a crystal ball, foreseeing the risks, opportunities, and trends ahead. You're like a fortune teller!
With that, I hope you understand why Pfizer is pledging support for the change in the Australian constitution!
Signing off for now