Great Advice From Great Minds: Working With, Not Just For, Patients

At eyeforpharma Barcelona in March, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with Marc Princen, President, International, for Allergan.Jill Donahue interviews Allergan’s International President Marc Princen

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Marc held several positions for Schering Plough – General Manager, Senior Director, Regional VP – all over Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, before moving on to Merck as their President of Diversified Brands and President of Mid Europe Region. He then went to Takeda and led their European and Canadian business operations from Zurich.

Allergan recruited him in 2016 to be EVP and President, International Business, where he is responsible for worldwide markets outside the U.S.

With such an impressive resume, what is it that occupies his energies today? “We want to make it real for patients, making it part of our DNA,” he told us. “Let’s find ways to work with patients rather than doing things ‘for’ patients.”

We were pleased to know that someone of Marc’s stature is as committed to patient centricity as we have been for the last several years. He thinks that what’s on the patient’s mind and what’s part of the patient journey should be integrated in the way you operate. And, as we’ve noted often, focusing on the patient leads to greater trust, greater engagement, and serving more patients —resulting in greater profitability. Our sustainable cycle starts with this focus on the patient. It is essential.

He sees as part of his job the responsibility to articulate the purpose of the company and the people who work there. “Employees are more intrigued, more engaged, more excited to deliver outcomes” when they understand the purpose, he says.

Marc Princen
Marc Princen

Marc Princen

President, international, Allergan

“For instance, we have an R&D department. If we make wearables and sensor data more accessible to the R&D people, they will be more in touch with the patient’s daily life, and how to help them.”

This is especially interesting coming from a man who confesses he was “born with two left hands” and was “the last person you would trust your technological or digital development to.” Yet he dedicated himself to learning the vectors of digitizing healthcare. In this search, he was impressed with the “infinite optimism everyone demonstrates” in that sector.

He was “bitten by the digitalization bug” and intrigued by the potential he saw: quantum leaps via technological breakthroughs, transformation that leads to sustainable growth, the unlocking of learning potential throughout the organization, and more. He became an advocate of “listen, learn, experiment.” Experimentation, of course, always carries risks, but it also leads to those quantum leaps. He says this led to “internal functions [being] enthusiastic and ‘infected’ with the digitalization ‘virus’ so that everyone feels and belongs to this new reality. Undoubtedly integrity and ethics are at the heart of all we do and certainly these values facilitate and advance sustainable progress.” He also became open to co-creation and partnerships – working outside the company to bring other points of view to the table.

Of course, this is all in service to the focus on the patient. “We have a medical aesthetics department, with products that are much closer to the patients,” Marc says. “We organize awareness and information from consumers and patients. This helps us understand the advantages of the product, how consultations can be done better. It’s not traditional pharma, but it helps us to learn and get closer to people.”

While he values the science behind all of their products, “chemistry and biology and technology don’t matter if you’re not focusing on making it more visible and practical for patients to cope with their diseases. The human touch helps facilitate all that we do.”

Most inspiring, Marc encourages all of us to “embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and change…And do not forget to wake up with optimistic thoughts every day [to] create a healthier life for patients.”

Jill Donahue

Jill Donahue

Principal, Excellerate

Author, Engage Rx: The 3 Keys to Patient-focused Growth Co–founder, The Aurora Project

Jill, HBa, MAdEd, is a keynote speaker, author and thought leader who has authored two books on Influencing in patient-focused ways and co-founded The Aurora Project, a global patient-centricity group. She also serves as Associate Editor of Healthcare Sales & Marketing.

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