Otsuka People Talk
An interview with the man in charge of marketing a product, first discovered in Japan. He is guided by his experiences as a medical representative (MR) and in product development.
“What kind of medication do you want?”
In 1983, our top executive at the time happened to run into a certain specialist at an airport. He asked the doctor, “What kind of medication do you want?” The doctor replied, “A medication that makes patients pass only water.” I have heard that the executive seized on the idea and immediately directed our staff to develop a medication like that.
That product took 26 years to develop. What I didn’t count on was being put in charge of marketing it. Being the world’s first with no comparable product before it, there was also no marketing know-how that we could draw on. We had to go in blind, which made things very challenging at first. When I was first appointed as the Japanese product manager, I was ordered to go overseas and promote the product. In English. From this highly challenging start, we’ve been running full speed ever since.
Truly, like my child.
At Otsuka Pharmaceutical, I have the job title of PMM (Product Management Manager). This title is indicative of my responsibility towards the evolution of the product rather than simply marketing it. When I became a PMM, I was told, “You’re not just growing the product. You have to grow with the product as well.”
It’s said that parents grow together with their children. I believe that statement to be true. Parents tend to force decisions on kids based on their pool of knowledge, but kids inevitably grow far beyond what their parents imagined, and they learn far more than what their parents tell them. Parents do grow in step with their kids. I, too, think about and plan the growth of the product, and I achieve growth as well. The product is truly like my child. It is demanding, but I also consider it a child with great potential. I think it will continue to grow, and let me grow with it.
An unexpected event
Right after the product’s release, I had to travel overseas in the coldest part of winter. One snowy night, I got a frantic phone call from Japan reporting a side effect that had never been seen before. When I got the call, I strongly recall thinking there was a lot I needed to do in response. I immediately asked for a report on the affected patient’s status, and initiated an investigation as to how the situation arose.
Because the side effect was completely unexpected in the field and among the developers, we communicated thoroughly with all parties concerned, both internal and external, and established emergency protocols for ensuring proper use of the drug.