The merger of the Consumer Healthcare businesses of GSK and Novartis has created a new brand team at GSK and new opportunities for the products involved. Darren Folker, previously with Novartis, is now sales director at the newly-formed GSK Consumer Healthcare. He speaks to P3 about the changes and what they might mean for community pharmacy.
Mr Folker believes the new partnership can only be good news for pharmacy: “The headline for me is that we’ve created a new GSK, we’ve got 19 household brands that we are bringing together and there’s an enthusiasm in the new business to work with pharmacists. “This is the creation of a new business from two great businesses – and probably that’s doing things that we couldn’t do with either one of those. It’s new and exciting,” he says.
The new business comprises brands including the likes of Voltarol and Panadol, two of the biggest sellers in the pain relief category. Pain will be an important category for growth, he says, as well as the cough and cold sector.
Pharmacies should expect to see a “sciencebased approach” to future launches, pharmacy training and consumer information from the company. “Many of our brands are rooted in pharmacy. The exciting thing over the next year or so is how we take those brands forward and really work with pharmacists and pharmacy assistants around how these brands can help patients. You will see this as the centrepiece of what we are going to do over the next few years.”
GSK has a “passion” around becoming the fastest growing healthcare consumer company, he says. Creating a science-based company with a passion for great new product development will be the basis of future success, he predicts. “This is what we will single-mindedly go after.”
Putting relationships with the pharmacist “at the heart” of the new business is a clear intention. “There are lots of opportunities and I think we need to go after the ones that will make a difference. This will determine how the brands grow. Next for us, is about developing the new GSK. You will see interaction with pharmacy on this in the coming months.”
The information available to customers about GSK products will be important in driving use of the company’s products, he feels. Having the right information available helps pharmacy teams to offer the products and, in turn, to grow sales. “We are working to make sure we are giving all the relevant facts for patient recommendation. We want people to understand how our products work and how they will benefit them.”
Strong partnerships are vital to this in competitive times, suggests Mr Folker. “We’d like to work hand in hand with pharmacy on that. At the end of the day, patients and consumers all have choices around where they shop and how they interact with brands. The demand for quality and information is always going to be there and is going to get more important.” It’s a competitive market, he stresses.
“It’s very easy to put products in the pharmacy supply chain. But getting products in the hands of patients and the right patients is what’s more difficult. For self care to work, we need to be giving the right information,” he added.
While it’s early days for the new business, the long-term goals are clear – to lead the market.
“GSK are in it for the long-term with our new global company. Our passion for the new GSK is extremely high, and we plan to reinvigorate our partnership with pharmacy. Along with that partnership will come growth – and that’s growth both for pharmacy and for GSK. We’re here to become the fastest growing consumer healthcare company.
Voltarol, Panadol, Nicotinell, Aquafresh, Beechams, Tixylix, Sensodyne, Otrivine, Horlicks, Maxi Nutrition