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William Adams

Location: Halifax, NS

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Health Care

Year: 2008

Innovation:

Developed a safe and efficient way to distribute drug samples. SmartSample® (US and Canadian patents pending) replaces traditional pharmaceutical samples with a specialized prescription that physicians can endorse and give to patients. Read the News Release and Media Backgrounder for additional information.

News Release

Smart Sampling Closes Loophole in "Seamless" Healthcare

Nova Scotian Wins Manning Innovation Award for New Drug Sampling Method

Calgary, AB (September 19, 2008) Nova Scotian entrepreneur William Adams has won a $10,000 Manning Innovation Award, sponsored by the A. J. Child Foundation, for developing a safer, more efficient way to distribute drug samples. SmartSample® (US and Canadian patents pending) replaces traditional pharmaceutical samples with a specialized prescription that physicians can endorse and give to patients. Patients can use the prescription to receive free samples from any pharmacy in Canada from its regular supply of medications.

A practice dating back to the 1920s, sampling is the pharmaceutical industry's primary marketing tool. Sampling has an important role in the healthcare system because it allows physicians and patients to evaluate drug therapies at no cost. But as traditionally practised, says Adams, sampling is wasteful, incompatible with electronic health records, and has the potential to compromise patient safety.

As a new pharmaceutical rep in the 1990s, on the road for two weeks each month with a minivan full of drug samples, Adams quickly realized how challenging it was to meet Health Canada's guidelines for pharmaceutical products. Like prescribed medications, drug samples should be stored at the right temperature and used before they expire. Adams says that before pharmaceutical reps have a chance to collect expired drug samples, many end up in landfills. Says Adams, "I just thought, there's a better way!"

Bringing the pharmacist into the loop to check for drug-drug interactions and talk with the patient bridges the gap in continuity of care, Adams adds.

Adams developed his idea for a branded sample card with business partners Paul Tobin and Greg Patey. Slightly larger than a credit card, SmartSample® has the sampled product information clearly displayed on one side and a section for physician authorization on the other. Once it is signed, the SmartSample® becomes a valid prescription that the patient can bring to the pharmacy of their choice for a free sample of the medication. An electronic reporting system keeps track of the distributed samples.


SmartSample® and the other SmartTechnology™ products are produced by Sampling Technologies Incorporated (STI), of which Adams, Tobin, and Patey are managing partners. Eight of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in Canada now use STI SmartTechnology™ for various products.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year the Foundation will award $165,000 in prize money. Four awards, totalling $145,000, will go to leading Canadian innovators. Another $20,000 will go to Young Canadians chosen at the 2008 Canada-Wide Science Fair.

The Foundation was established in 1980 in the name of prominent Alberta statesman, Ernest C. Manning, to promote and support Canadian innovators. Since 1982, the Foundation has presented over $3.9 million in prize money through its annual awards program. The 2008 awards will be presented at an awards gala on Friday, October 3 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A Media Backgrounder about the innovators and their work is now available on the Foundation’s website, with video available after October 3, 2008: www.manningawards.ca

For more information on the Foundation, contact Bruce Fenwick, Executive Director: 403-645-8288 or bruce.fenwick@encana.com

For more information about STI and their products, visit www.samplingtechnologies.com/ or contact Mr. William Adams: 902-489-8960 or bill.adams@samplingtechnologies.com

Media Backgrounder

$10,000 Manning Innovation Award

Sponsored by the A.J. Child Foundation

Mr. William Adams

SmartSample®-A Process to Improve the Efficiency of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Who?

  • William ("Bill") Adams, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Sampling Technologies Incorporated (STI)
  • Adams is the visionary behind SmartSample® and other innovative SmartTechnology™ products and processes that improve patient safety through better pharmaceutical sampling and medication management practices.

Why?

  • Pharmaceutical sampling is an entrenched marketing practice that gives physicians and patients the opportunity to try medications at no cost.
  • As traditionally practised, sampling can be wasteful, incompatible with electronic health records, and can potentially compromise patient safety. An alternative approach that involves pharmacists was needed.

What?

  • SmartSample® (U.S. and Canadian patents pending) replaces traditional pharmaceutical samples with a specialized prescription that physicians can endorse and give to patients. Patients redeem the SmartSample® at their pharmacy of choice. STI also offers a suite of other innovative medication management products.
  • SmartSample® works in tandem with a web-based reporting system called SmartTrack™, which helps pharmaceutical companies keep track of how the samples are being used while maintaining patient privacy.
  • SmartSample® and related products conform to Canada's Food and Drug Act, Rx&D's Code of Marketing Practices and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA), Canada's privacy law.

Where?

  • STI's Head Office, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is home to the IT Department, the Marketing and Creative Development Department and the Research and Development Department. STI also has account managers who work and reside in Ontario or Québec.

When?

  • Adams and Managing Partners Paul Tobin and Greg Patey founded STI in 2002. After completing an Atlantic Pilot Project in 2003, STI launched commercial programs across Canada.

Patient Safety at Odds with Traditional Sampling Practices

In the 1990s, fresh from his MBA and full of enthusiasm, pharmaceutical company rep, William ("Bill") Adams soon found himself thinking that there could be a better way to handle drug samples.

He recognized several challenges for pharmaceutical reps, such as managing sample expiry and the general administration for physicians around sampling.

It was clear to Adams that the traditional sampling process was excluding the benefits of pharmacist involvement in sampling in terms of additional counselling and medication monitoring which could improve patient safety

Drug Samples Wasting Away

"The sheer waste because of expiry, and the administrative burden on representatives to manage expiry and inventory in physicians' offices… not to mention the cost of sampling as well…" says Adams, "I just thought, there's a better way!"

Smart Sampling Closes Loophole in "Seamless" Healthcare

As Adams grew into managerial roles within the pharmaceutical industry, he began to recognise further issues with the traditional sampling process. Importantly, specialists, family doctors, and pharmacists do not know what samples another health care practitioner has given a patient, making continuity of care next to impossible. "Traditional sampling…disrupts that seamless system," notes Adams.

In our changing healthcare environment, says Adams, treatment decisions are becoming more complex and increasingly are shared amongst several healthcare providers. It makes sense to include the pharmacist in the sampling process, he suggests.

Because traditional sampling does not include pharmacist involvement, a valuable check for drug-drug interactions is lost, Adams adds. The patient misses out on pharmacist-patient counselling and more detailed drug information, and the pharmacist is not consulted to view the patient's profile for possible adverse drug-interactions. Furthermore, without a record of samples a patient has taken, the pharmacist cannot alert this patient if there is a drug recall.

Nevertheless, stresses Adams, sampling is of great benefit to physicians, patients and the healthcare system, including both public and private healthcare insurers. Physicians gain experience with new medications and there is no cost to patients or their insurance plan, he notes.

Early on, Adams had come up with an idea for a drug payment card. He later realised that the same concept could work for distributing drug samples: Pharmaceutical companies would give specialized prescriptions to physicians, who would sign them and give them to their patients. Patients would then be able to redeem the sample prescriptions at the pharmacy. This would bring the pharmacist back into the loop, ensuring the continuity of care.

In 2000, Adams brought his idea to his colleague, Paul Tobin. Together they worked on developing the innovation. When Greg Patey joined as a third partner in 2002, the three founded Sampling Technologies Incorporated (STI). Within a few months they had left the security of their old jobs for the uncertain world of entrepreneurship. "We didn't know if it could be done," recalls Adams, "but we were prepared to give it everything we had and see what would happen." SmartSample®, a pharmaceutical sample card, was their flagship product.

Slightly larger than a credit card, a SmartSample® has the sample product information displayed on one side and a section for physician authorization on the other. Once the card is signed it becomes a valid prescription. When a patient brings a SmartSample® to the pharmacy, the pharmacy is reimbursed by a national health claims management company. Since the launch in 2002, SmartSample® has received support and/or endorsement from most Provincial Pharmacy Associations and Regulatory Bodies across Canada.

The advantages of updating the traditional sampling process were clear to Adams and his partners, but they had to work hard to make the case to pharmaceutical companies. The team's position was that pharmaceutical companies needed a way to measure and improve their return on investment from pharmaceutical sampling. They pointed out that companies were losing uncalculated revenue in sample production, distribution and waste. Their case was convincing, and a few companies agreed to pilot the innovative sampling process.

In order to give drug companies a return on their investment, SmartSample® works in tandem with a web-based reporting system that provides general marketing information. The system, called SmartTrack™, helps pharmaceutical companies keep track of how the samples are being used while maintaining patient privacy.

After completing an Atlantic Pilot Project in 2003, STI launched commercial programs across Canada. Eight of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in Canada now use STI SmartTechnology™ for various products, including medications for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and arthritis, and for contraceptives. As many provinces shift to electronic health records, the documentation that SmartSample® provides is becoming critical for managing the continuum of healthcare.

SmartTechnology™ products, the STI suite of tools, have evolved to include SmartRx™, a prescription renewal process; SmartMap™, a GIS mapping tool that shows where SmartSample® cards are being redeemed; and SmartTrial™, a system used to provide medications and reporting in clinical trials. SmartTrial™ includes a SmartPayment™ card for study participants to use at the pharmacy, which frees researchers from having to securely store large amounts of pharmaceuticals.

Innovation at the Nation's Edge

With STI systems running 24-7 and networked to pharmacies across Canada, one might expect the company to be based in Toronto or Montreal. But Nova Scotia is home, Adams says.

"(With) any company you start…it is a challenge to have a good work-life balance," says Adams. In Nova Scotia, he finds, that balance comes more easily. "With its world class infrastructure and very strong talent pool…(it) is the ideal place to do business," he adds.

Adams says he is amazed and honoured to be recognised with a national innovator's award. The Manning Innovation Awards have an important role in encouraging "the next alternative and future innovators," he says. "Any company that wants to succeed has to foster innovation in its culture and with its people."

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year the Foundation will award $165,000 in prize money. Four awards, totalling $145,000, will go to leading Canadian innovators. Another $20,000 will go to Young Canadians chosen at the 2008 Canada-Wide Science Fair.

The Foundation was established in 1980 in the name of prominent Alberta statesman, Ernest C. Manning, to promote and support Canadian innovators. Since 1982, the Foundation has presented over $3.9 million in prize money through its annual awards program.