Publicis Healthcare Communications to acquire PDI's commercial group

Consolidation in the contract sales organization (CSO) space

PDI, a longtime leader in the CSO business, is leaving. The company is selling its Commercial Services business unit to a rival, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group, (PHCG) for $33 million, contingent on the volume of business the unit will retain after the transfer; the earnout could add $5-15 million to the acquisition cost, say the two companies. PHCG says that after the acquisition, it will have more than 4,000 sales reps, medical affairs personnel and other healthcare professionals, which will make it “the most powerful source for outsourced healthcare promotional and marketing talent in the industry.”

Earlier, PHCG had rolled up another CSO, Tardis Medical, for an undisclosed price; Tardis was an outsourced clinical and medical affairs organization, operating mostly in Europe but with business units in Asia and Latin America. The internationalization of the CSO business for pharma is something of a trend; another major player, Quintiles Integrated Health Services, acquired a CSO business in Japan several years ago, and Ashfield Commercial Services, a unit of Ireland’s United Drug, has been expanding in the US.

Nicholas Colucci, CEO of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group commented, "We believe the addition of the PDI CSO business will enhance our position as a leading commercialization partner to pharmaceutical and biotech companies globally.” One other interesting aspect to the deal: pharma companies will apparently have a choice between which salesforce-automation (SFA) platform to use: Publicis has had a longstanding relationship, reinforced at the beginning of this year, with the Mobile Intelligence SFA platform of Cegedim Relationship Management (now part of IMS Health); while PDI was one of the pioneering users of Veeva’s SFA platform. However, both companies have long stated that they will use whichever SFA platform their pharma clients prefer.

PDI’s exit from the CSO business is emphatic: it is changing its name to Interpace Diagnostics Group and will be concentrating on the molecular diagnostics business going forward. The company had made several acquisitions in this area in recent years, and it noted that “PDI intends to utilize proceeds from the transaction to strengthen its balance sheet and focus resources on its growing molecular diagnostic business.”