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European Pharmaceutical Contractor

CRO Market: Annual Review

“The good CEO, the one who will remain and stay in charge, is the one who learns how to outsource”, said Philippe Courtot, CEO of Qualys, a company that provides IT risk management solutions to the engineering industry. I have previously noted in several publications that the pharmaceutical industry is relatively new to outsourcing, but recent advances in strategic outsourcing as practiced by Wyeth, Solvay and, most recently, Eli Lilly show the beginnings of real comprehension of what outsourcing is all about.

In 1991, the CEO of Sasson, a $250 million company with just nine employees, said “I have to keep networking everywhere, looking for good partners”. The pharmaceutical industry is still miles away from being as lean as Sasson, but outsourcing is certainly on an upward path.

In his book Liberation Management, Tom Peters quotes Groucho Marx, “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member” and suggests a variation: “I would not want to work with a subcontractor who would have me as a partner”. This is a way of saying that you should only work with CROs who you believe are better than you. This may be anathema to company-proud CRO managers in pharmaceutical companies, but the current economic conditions may force them to change their minds. CROs are essential to the pharmaceutical industry and it behoves the industry, therefore, to support, nurture, train, encourage and improve the sector.


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Graham Hughes is a leading expert in the field of outsourcing in Pharmaceutical Development. He was the founder and Scientific Director of Technomark Consulting Services in 1987. Graham is Editor of European Pharmaceutical Contractor and International Clinical Trials. He is a frequent speaker and chairman at national and international conferences on outsourcing and drug development. He has also run numerous workshops on the selection and management of CROs. He has recently been Chairman of Auxetica, a UK-based medical device company, and is President of Aginko AG, a Swiss CRO specialising in musculo-skeletal medicine. He is currently a Director of Oxford Cardiac Pharmacology Ltd and Vice President of Technomark Life Sciences, which is based in the US.

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