Lead a Renaissance to Reboot Success

When Doug Drysdale brought his magic touch to the people and product lines of Pernix Therapeutics Holdings, the industry frontrunner was reborn

Before coming to Pernix Therapeutics Holdings, Doug Drysdale spent five years taking a similar company, Alvogen, from around $20 million in revenue to more than $400 million. Ahead of that, he led mergers and acquisitions for pharmaceutical powerhouse Actavis. For more than twenty years, in fact, Drysdale has taken on roles throughout the healthcare industry and fortified each organization with his leadership. He’s been recognized accordingly by Pharmaceutical Executive magazine as a distinguished honoree for the 2011 International Business Award and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year honor in 2012.

PERNIX PRESCRIPTIONS DIRECT NIXES RED TAPE

The difference between prescribing and dispensing primary-care retail products can be up to 40-50 percent, according to Pernix CEO Doug Drysdale. That means a large percentage of patients don’t take their medication once they get it or don’t get the medication at all. But with the help of the Pernix Prescriptions Direct shipment program, implemented by the company in August 2015, the burdens of access, affordability, and other potential areas of red tape are reduced significantly. With multiple checkpoints in place to ensure safety and accuracy, Drysdale already sees heightened satisfaction all the way around because of the program.

“There’s so much hassle getting medication today; so many barriers in the way,” Drysdale says. “So if we can get patients their prescribed medication with ease, make it easy for them to stay on it both economically and logistically, and make it easier on the doctor’s office instead of constant callbacks, it benefits everyone.”

Then, in February 2014, he was appointed chairman, president, and CEO of Pernix—a company founded eighteen years earlier, but in dire need of a renaissance. Its product line was, as Drysdale says, “a mixed basket of somewhat undifferentiated cough and cold products,” and its infrastructure was scattered and highly fragmented. Consequentially, its stock was at a low point. “These things tend to spiral a bit,” Drysdale says.

But he liked Pernix’s selling model, he liked its history, and he liked the chance to reboot an entire company culture. By autumn, he had Pernix turning a profit once again. “We transitioned from products for seasonal and acute conditions to chronic condition products that give the company some longer-term, sustainable revenue,” Drysdale explains. “We’ve focused so far on a new portfolio as well as building out new managerial and sales teams.”

Amassing products for the new portfolio was, in a sense, the easy part. The licensing of Khedezla, an antidepressant, happened two months after Drysdale took over. By May 2014, Pernix had announced the relaunch of insomnia medication Silenor as well. Before the summer’s end, it acquired Treximet, which is known for treating migraines. In April 2015, the extended-release chronic pain reliever known as Zohydro ER also joined the Pernix fold.

But any portfolio is only as good as the people involved in making it available to the public. When Drysdale came on the scene, Pernix had offices throughout the United States—but minimal connections between any of them. “People leaving can contribute to a culture falling apart, but so can lack of a central location and/or management,” he says, citing the lack of culture that was originally in place.

Yet one of the other benefits of rebuilding is getting to recreate the culture from scratch, according to Drysdale. “We focus on attracting like-minded, entrepreneurial people who wanted to be in a business where there is low bureaucracy but a lot of responsibility and accountability,” he says.

With an eye for energetic self-starters who not only take risks, but also embrace the change that often accompanies it (“If you were looking for a stable blue-chip company, this wasn’t for you,” he says), Drysdale took Pernix from an eighty-five-person regional sales team to one now possessing 200 representatives and a nationwide reach.

What’s more, Drysdale took the company’s home base out of Houston, Texas, and moved it closer to the pharmaceutical action by way of Morristown, New Jersey. “We pretty much rebuilt the entire management team there,” he says. “They had previously been spread all around the country, but bringing everyone to New Jersey really helped make the culture cohesive.”

But Drysdale has introduced one more key element—known as the 10-80-10 principle—to bring together the new products, new sales staff, and new management of Pernix. Staff are encouraged to approach the time management of a given project as 10 percent planning, 80 percent executing, and 10 percent learning what to do better next time.

The goal is to avoid getting bogged down in the planning stage, which Drysdale feels stretches timelines far beyond what they should be in the pharmaceutical industry. “It sounds simple, but it’s about trying to create a culture in the home office where people don’t feel threatened by taking chances and measured risks,” he says. “It’s better to do something that doesn’t work out the way you intended, remember it, and move forward, than not do anything at all.”

Nearly two years after taking over, Drysdale feels great about what the company overhaul has done for Pernix’s place in the industry. And the rollout of a new program, Pernix Prescriptions Direct, is destined to put Pernix in even better standing with many of its customers.

But as Drysdale points out, what made the organization great in the past is essentially the same thing making it great right now. “Some companies reach a plateau and need to change things out,” he says. “That’s what I think Pernix did in early 2014. We reset things with a different baseline and changed the strategy, but we did it with the same entrepreneurial spirit that’s always been here.”