NEWARK, N.J., May 15, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- With his first year of graduate studies nearly behind him, Michael Kwatkoski has sat through hours of lessons on the pharmaceutical business and the nation's healthcare system.
And at the annual healthcare symposium sponsored by Rutgers Business School's Blanche and Irwin Lerner Center for the Study of Pharmaceutical Management Issues, many of his classroom lectures and lessons became a little more meaningful.
"We hear about the theory, the legislation, the big picture," said Kwatkoski, an MBA student in the Pharmaceutical Management Program. "Something like this puts in all in practical perspective."
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The April 30 symposium, "Global Challenges to Pharmaceutical Reimbursements," provided a big-picture, real-world look at the federal government's efforts to reduce healthcare costs while increasing access to medical care. Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, gave the keynote address. Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow from Project Hope, also spoke about the Affordable Care Act.
In a panel discussion moderated by Richard Bagger, a senior vice president at Celgene, a trio of pharmaceutical executives shared their insights about how the new focus on pricing and affordability is impacting the industry's business model – namely the strategy of how companies decide what new medicines to spend time and money developing and taking to market.
The annual symposium is the Lerner Center's signature event, reinforcing its role as a source of thought leadership on issues impacting the pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses. This year's symposium attracted a crowd of more than 70 students, alumni, industry professionals, corporate supporters and media.
In his opening remarks, Professor Mahmud Hassan, the center's director, highlighted some of the strengths of the Rutgers MBA Pharmaceutical Management Program, including recognition as one of the top 10 programs in pharmaceuticals in the world, the high percentage of graduates who are employed by the industry after completing their MBAs as well as the benefits the 10-year-old Lerner Center brings to the program.
Hassan said the goal of the symposium was to produce a "meaningful dialogue" relevant to the growth of the biopharmaceutical industry.
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Rutgers Traditional Full-Time MBA program #7 in MBA employment. Hassan noted that more than 40 percent of Rutgers MBA Class of 2013 graduates went into the pharma/biotech/healthcare field.
Kwatkoski, who is studying pharmaceutical management and marketing, sat through the three-hour event, absorbing the information and insights. "I enjoyed hearing the perspective of people who have worked in pharma for so many years," he said.
Javiar Rodriguez, a former pharmacist turned MBA student, also said the symposium enriched his studies with practical insights.
"These events bring the real world to us," Rodriguez said. "It validates what we're learning."
In a conversation guided by Bagger, the panel of pharmaceutical executives - Indranil Bagchi from Pfizer, Anita Burrell from Sanofi and Joseph DiCesare from Novartis - delved into the some of the factors that are changing drug development, challenging pharmaceutical companies to find ways to cut costs, focus on core areas of research and re-think the medicines that they invest time and money in to bring to market.
While once regulators and pharmaceutical companies were focused on the effectiveness and safety of a new medicine, now there are other factors to consider, including pricing and the perceived value of a new drug. "Everyone favors value-based pricing," said panelist Anita Burrell, an executive with Sanofi. "In reality, value-based pricing is difficult to put into practice."
The panel also discussed the same challenges around putting real-world evidence into practice and the particular hurdles of developing orphan drugs – medicines that treat rare diseases. The drugs are needed by small patient populations, which often results in high prices, making them unaffordable or risky propositions for revenue-hungry drug manufacturers.
Philip Patrick, who worked in pharmaceutical marketing research before he began teaching at Rutgers Business School, attended the symposium for the first time. "This was a very advanced level discussion," Patrick said. "The speakers were decision makers at the center of things."
Patrick said such an exchange of opinions and knowledge is a rare opportunity. "The people who sat on this panel are not ordinarily available," he said. "Almost no other entity could pull something like this off."
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