I spent last weekend working my other job. It was time for the annual World of Pinot Noir event in Santa Barbara, CA and my wife was showcasing the new release wines from our small winery Bruliam Wines (shameless plug: www.bruliamwines.com). My job is to show up at these events, stand at our booth, pour wine, tell our story and answer questions – all with the intent of increasing our visibility in the market. I know, it doesn’t sound like work. But when you’re into the 3rd hour of telling the same story to a group of people that are getting increasingly more intoxicated, it does start to feel like work.
This year was our fourth year pouring at the World of Pinot Noir and I like to joke with my wife that instead of showing up at 3pm when the event starts, we should roll in around 4:30pm.
Why? Because of the herd mentality.
When the doors to the ballroom open at 3pm, there is a crazed mad-dash to a small number of high profile winery tables. Think Walmart on Black Friday, complete with sharp elbows, arguments, and tears. While the masses press their way to the front of these tables, the rest of us with small, relatively unknown wineries stand around and do nothing until the hysteria dies down and people start to move and try new things. From 3pm-4pm nothing happens at our table. From 4pm-5pm, things start to pick up and from 5pm onward we’re usually 3-4 people deep and working like crazy. What I always find funny (and quite rewarding for my wife and me ) is that by the end of the tasting, quite a few people will tell us that our wines “were the best they’ve had all day”.
So, how does this tie-in with my real job at AdverseEvents and drug safety? Herd mentality.
Last week, AdverseEvents published a report on the blood thinner drugs, where we used our various analytic tools to do some comparisons within drug classes. The report got some attention at FiercePharma [article] and BMJ [article] which sparked a few hundred downloads of our report, as well as, the expected rebuttal from the pharma companies whose drugs came out on the poorer side of the analysis.
Special Report Download: Examining the Comparative Safety of Blood Thinners:An Analysis Utilizing AdverseEvents Explorer
But, what I found interesting was that the rebuttal was purely a "herd mentality". The professionals in drug safety at large pharmaceutical companies have been trained to discount FAERS, due to a dogma that it has a number of limitations which make the data unreliable and, therefore, can’t be used for things like comparable studies. Bear in mind, that these professionals actually have no idea what we do with this data, or how our analytics work, or even how the results of our analysis should be interpreted. To them it’s simply (in your best Frankenstein voice): “FAERS bad. Analysis bad. Comparison bad.”
That’s the norm we’ve come to expect. But just like at the wine event, there are always those few who peel away from the pack and are willing to try something new.
A number of people read one of the media stories, downloaded the report, and then reached out to us for a better understanding of our methodologies, our tools, and our analytics. Much to their surprise (but not to ours), when they took the time to learn about what we are doing they found the education quite rewarding. Or as one forward-thinking drug safety professional put it, “one of the best ways of doing post-approval data reviews I’ve ever seen”.
Unfortunately, unlike the wine event, it’s probably going to take the herd more than three hours to come around to our way of thinking. But we have a good idea of what drives the herd, we know how to get it to change direction, and we have a plan. So while it may take three months, three years, or even longer, when the herd does come around, we’ll be waiting with a smile and open arms. And maybe even a glass of pinot to share.