Sunday, August 12, 2012

For Future Olympic Preference

In its Olympic history, I believe the Philippines has only 2 silvers and a couple of bronze medals to show for its efforts in the international sports event. This year, our country has been nothing but consistent, delivering a shining, shimmering 0-0-0 slate (I really can't call it disappointing, since it's been the norm for the country since joining).

The Philippines first joined the Olympics in 1924, and eventually became the first country in Southeast Asia to ever medal with Teofilo Yldefonso winning bronze in swimming the 200 m breaststroke. Since his win, we've had 8 more medals, 5 in boxing (2 silvers and 3 bronzes), 2 in swimming (2 bronzes), and 2 in athletics (2 bronzes in the hurdles and high jump).

Since then, the Philippines has been held without a gold medal for the past four Olympic meets and now holds the record for the nation with the most medals without a gold.

This Olympics O-Fer was sparked by efforts in swimming, shooting, archery, boxing, judo, weightlifting, cycling,  and athletics. However sterling these efforts may have been, it may just be that we haven't been sending the right athletes in the right sports. Or rather, we should train and send athletes in sports that we Filipinos can actually have a shot at winning.

Now, wait before you bring out the funny and suggest, patintero, palo sebo, or DOTA, I mean sports that our bodies are actually built for.

Sports like:

DIVING .Our Filipino stature is built for this sport. We are short, lithe, agile and we will be able to execute twisties and turnies before plunging into the deep blue of Olympic pools. I think of how if we catch kids at an early age and train them over at the diving pool in Dumaguete, I don't see how in four years we can't have competitive divers twisting and jackknifing into the diving pool in Rio. Maybe even a medal in 8 years.

FENCING. We are small and quick. How easy could it be for Italians, Chinese, and other nations, to hit us if we move as we know we can move. It might not be popular in the country at the moment, but I assure you, people will get into it once we can put some wins under our belt, as Filipinos are always good at BIRGing (Gayaism: Basking in Reflected Glory)

ARCHERY. I have to agree with this one. This year, it became one of the most popular events due to movies like Hunger Games and Brave, but I think we have it in our country to produce our own Katniss to the Chinese and Russians of the world. We need the support, the bows, the target practice and not just politicians showing up to BIRGe once we hit a bullseye.

BOXING. Now if only we can get officials to call fights as they should be or maybe we can ask them to cut us some slack after all the medals they've stolen from us all these years. The reputation of boxing as an Olympic sport has well been tarnished but it is still there. We have an advantage in the quicker weight divisions like light flyweight (where we have mostly gotten our bronzes) but forget about the heavyweights. We are Filipinos, we are built for speed, agility, endurance rather than power and strength.

ATHLETICS. Wait. I do not mean the 100 m dash or the running events, nor the hammer throws and javelins. I look at the guys doing the pole vault and say to myself, if I was younger, gotten the right training, and a really really long stick, I could medal in this event. It's just people running really hard and going over a bar using a long yardstick. Our race is light, small, and agile. All we need is the stick. Track for Filipinos -- we're fast but legs too short, Throwing -- we're weaklings. Long and Triple Jumps -- again, legs too short. But the pole vault is just right.

HANDBALL. No country has a claim to this team sport yet. Nobody watches it and if there ever was a team sport we could excel in, this is it. Sneak in while nobody is watching.

So please, Philippine Sports Commission. Please stop sending athletes in events that we have no hope of winning. Did you guys really think that our swimmers could hold a candle to the Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte's of the world? Or that our lone BMX racer could out-RAD the BMXers from the US? Or that our track superstars could outrun the Kenyans and the Usain Bolts?

As much as I love basketball and volleyball, I know these will never be medal sports for us. In baseball, we have a chance but I don't think it is included yet. But still I place us a far cry from the Latin Americans and US sluggers.

But I'd like to see a university athletic program or government-sponsored fencing event, or an archery meet, or the pole vault.

We are Filipinos. We are short, we are resilient, we are quick, we are proud. And we cheer on anybody who wishes to wear the country colors and represent them in international athletic meets. To our athletes who tried, don't get me wrong, I am extremely proud to have cheered you on.

To the people responsible, do your jobs better. It wouldn't hurt if you guys can put us in positions to win.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Marketing Medical Faith

There are so many factors involved in the campaign of encouraging the use of new (and even old) drugs in the medical community that one can really make a career out of it. I've never been under any illusion as to the intricacy and complexity of the management that goes into promoting a single drug and I have no doubt that it takes a great deal of money involved, but it would take constant updates and reinvention to lead a successful campaign.

Given that  I've been privy to the thought process behind it recently, I just think that, although there still are too many factors to possibly ever have under control, it would help people in this business to take into account certain things into consideration.

DOCTORS: When it comes to approaching the use of new drugs, there is no greater avenue for promotion than to those that prescribe and practice medicine. But unfortunately, doctors are not created equal.

When it comes to brushing up on new drugs and new medical information, there are doctors that diligently read and keep up with medical breakthroughs and whatnot through established medical journals (no, not the ones that routinely pop up on your regular Wikipedia searches), know how to critically appraise articles, and know what the terms RRR (relative risk reduction), ARR (absolute risk reduction), hard and soft endpoints mean. You see, it's never just about what they point out in the conclusion sections of articles that counts. One has to look at how the trials are conducted, any underlying agendas and whether they are statistically hazy or statistically potent.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are doctors who are content with what they know and do not read quite as much. There are subsets of this group that become the hook, line and sinker types that believe everything medical representatives pitch to them at their clinics or those that think sponsored scientific "eatings" are law and incorporate them into their practice.

If you strategize, you'd have to wow the first group with a great medical trial to influence the inclusion of new drugs into their well-established arsenal of therapeutics. The second group will take a little bit more wining and dining, maybe a few more side offers, and you're all set. Not to make this sound all shady and unethical, but people have to know that these are drugs with trials about them having proven their effect with their target disease. In reality, use is largely a matter of marketing, and benefit takes a backseat, but if you can get both, everybody comes out a winner.

PHARMACISTS: Pharmacists in the Philippines play a unique role in the sales of medicines. And I largely suspect, not only here but all over the world. Patients would often bypass doctor consultations and go directly to pharmacies and ask for medications. I'm sure that they all know their stuff and exercise vigilant and compassionate dispensing of drugs, but somewhere out there is an argument that they should refer to doctors regarding drug prescription but that is the reality. Marketing-wise, it's a whole new avenue to cover.

MEDICAL REPRESENTATIVES: These individuals go into doctors clinics and make cases for their assigned drugs and have to keep smiles on their faces doing so. Imagine how hard that job will be if you have to drive doctors and hospital bigwigs around at their whim. But marketing drugs have to be launched off somewhere and for companies to have the perfect representatives will go a long way. They have to know how to play doctor types and personalities and know the intricacies of promoting drugs, when to play off humor, who needs the extra push, who responds to flattery, and who needs it straight up. So for those in the market of selling to doctors, make sure you have the best of them.

PATIENTS: The most important market for drugs are the people who actually use them. In this day and age, the information superhighway is a busy busy one and patients are not as uninformed as they used to be. They come into clinics armed with information, albeit a hodgepodge of medical jargon and not necessarily knowledge, but giving them information, guided and unbiased, for them to digest as they see fit, would go a long way. Just don't forget to add those words at the end "if symptoms persist, consult your doctor." Creating groups online of patients with similar experiences, quick drug study guides, and nearby support systems will go a long way in showing that your drug cares for patients and at the same time, promoting its use among people who actually know what it is like using them.

Selling people on to medications has never been as straightforward as it seemed. Through the ages, people have found ways to get around stipulations, advertising, succumbed to some degree of corruption, but it has always been about getting drugs to people that need them, given by people that actually know stuff about it. With that, you need belief in your drug, some medical faith. So if you are in the drug marketing biz, and you think that traditional folk healers are a way to get people to believe in your drug, go that way.

Sell the drug, not your soul.