Pharma reputation as safe haven for events tarnished

The pharmaceutical sector is no longer a safe haven for the B2B events industry, as budget cuts and licensing challenges ripple through meetings spend.

The pharmaceutical sector is suffering budget cuts
The pharmaceutical sector is suffering budget cuts

Following news that AstraZeneca has shrunk its UK-based global events team from 14 to two, agencies working with pharmaceutical clients have told C&IT that the sector has become increasingly cautious.

Universal World Events European director Andrew Winterburn said the healthcare industry's 'safe' reputation is a fallacy. "Austerity measures and budgetary cuts have had a direct impact," he said. "Meanwhile, licensing is more challenging and there are greater risks in pharma companies investing in research and development."

As part of a restructure earlier this year, AstraZeneca reduced its events staff and embargoed non-essential travel, although that has now been eased.

The company reported a 19% slide in third-quarter sales, largely due to patent expiry issues. Earlier this year, it announced that it planned to axe 7,300 jobs globally by the end of 2014.

TFI Group head of business development for pharmaceutical Annette Whymark said virtual meetings are being discussed more frequently. "Pharma events have changed forever and the focus on ROI and alternative options looks set to stay, post-recession," she added. "Some of our clients were ahead of the game on this, and have curbed meeting spend for a long time."

However, Banks Sadler operations director for London Karen Rice said there would always be a need for meetings. "Although all companies are looking at efficiencies, depending on their drug pipeline/R&D, there is still a need to operate meetings," she said. "We are working with our clients to ensure we achieve cost savings (while delivering) objectives."

12 - The number of AstraZeneca UK events staff to lose their job

19% - The fall in AstraZeneca's third-quarter sales

7,300 - Total jobs AstraZeneca plans to axe by the end of 2014.

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