Successful Collaboration Lies Within

To shape the external environment we must prepare ourselves internally, says Janssen's Rebecca Hutchinson

Ensuring innovative medicines reach the patients that need them is a passion for Rebecca Hutchinson, Business Unit Director at Janssen UK and Ireland. “It worries me deeply that the UK has the slowest uptake and diffusion of innovative medicines and support programs among the developed markets. It’s scary – it scares me as a mother, a sister, a daughter. It drives me every day.”

It is only through collaboration – a word Hutchinson admits is overused in the industry today – that this situation can be reversed. “We have to make sure we’re having the right dialogue with the right people to shape the external environment. We need to work together as an industry and that’s not always easy.”

The key to success in external collaboration lies close to home, she says. “To be really good at collaborating externally, we have to do well internally first. We have to be well connected across the functions; my main objective is to work with the other leaders to look at how we can shape the external environment and prepare ourselves internally. We must make sure the offerings we put around our products deliver the outcomes we promise.”

Delivering the promised health outcomes is pharma’s half of the deal. “Everybody – pharma and the health system – wants the same thing; improving health outcomes. We do that with the products we offer and the NHS does it through the services it provides, but we need to work together. If we don’t collaborate and connect well, the relationship can become a bit adversarial, where we’re trying to do something and they’re trying to stop us.”

Janssen has a long history of delivering sustainable solutions, she says. “We were one of the first companies to develop a patient access scheme to get faster access to our medicines and we do a lot to help the NHS manage its budget. A lot of the work we’re doing at the moment is around complex patient access schemes and outcomes guarantee schemes, so we can help the NHS to manage the introduction of some of the medicines we have coming to the market.”


After studying engineering at university, Hutchinson was as surprised as anyone when she found herself working in the pharmaceutical industry. “My plan had been to go into management consultancy but I met a recruiter for the graduate program at Janssen and she persuaded me to apply. It was serendipity really, but I really liked the idea of making a difference and working on products that improved people’s lives.”

Her engineering education proved useful, as she moved through “various sales and marketing” jobs firstly in the UK business then as part of the EMEA team. “Engineering was a brilliant training. I don’t think I realized at the time but looking back I can see how it teaches you a rigor and discipline particularly in how to solve problems, it gives you an analytical perspective.”

It’s very diverse – in fact, Janssen was ahead of the curve in terms of getting diversity into the organization; they took risks by bringing in people with different skillsets and backgrounds but those risks paid off.

Later, she decided to study for an MBA. “I wanted to do the MBA to give me a greater focus on the business background, but – and perhaps that is a female thing – the decision was as much about giving myself the confidence that I understood the business side of things in order to progress my career.”

Following a break to have her son, now 18 months old, Hutchinson returned to the UK business, where she now has responsibility for the neuroscience, infectious diseases, and oncology/hematology portfolios.

“Janssen is an incredible organization with a phenomenal pipeline of products,” she says, reflecting on her varied career. “It offers great opportunities – I’ve worked in all of our therapy areas now – the people who make up the organization are incredible. It’s very diverse – in fact, Janssen was ahead of the curve in terms of getting diversity into the organization; they took risks by bringing in people with different skillsets and backgrounds but those risks paid off.”

Transparency critical

If there is one thing Hutchinson would change about the industry right now it would be greater transparency. “It takes a long time to build trust and bad headlines don’t help that process. I was the company sponsor for the work we did around declaring transfers of value to HCPs last year and that is definitely a step in the right direction.”

However, pricing is a major challenge, she says. “The cost our medicines are procured at is nowhere near the list price, yet when you see articles in the press about expensive drugs they only mention the list price, not the price the system actually pays, nor do they mention all the support we put around the product. We have to continue to champion being transparent and then hold ourselves accountable if we do things that mean we’re not. We have to hold each other to account in a way that helps us all build a stronger position around trust and reputation.”

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