Today, Peggy Staver will officially retire from Pfizer, after a career of 35 years. Those of us who have worked on figuring out how to implement anti-counterfeiting solutions that work in the U.S. pharma supply chain over the last 15 years or so will miss her friendly, inquisitive and steady voice very much.
Peggy is a graduate of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan where she earned a BBA with a major in Accounting. After college, Peggy moved to Denver, Colorado where she worked for Deloitte Haskins & Sells as a staff auditor. She became a CPA during this time and then returned to Michigan where she joined The Upjohn Company in 1981 as a Corporate Auditor. Most of Peggy’s career was spent in financial roles until 2003 when Pfizer acquired Pharmacia. With that transition, she switched from leading the Pharmacia demand management function to Pfizer’s Director of Product Integrity.
I met Peggy shortly after she took that last role in 2004 at the kickoff meeting of the Accenture Jumpstart project, an early pharma industry serialization experiment. Peggy represented Pfizer, and I represented Cardinal Health at the time. It was my first experience representing my company in an ad hoc industry organization. The participants aimed to study solutions to the counterfeit drug problem in the United States, centering around serialization and auto identification.
One of my first indelible memories of Peggy was when the Accenture Jumpstart moderators steered the discussion toward drug counterfeiting as a serious problem for the industry. Several other participants made comments that suggested the problem wasn’t real, or wasn’t as bad as implied. Peggy spoke up in her characteristic authoritative soft and clear voice and took the side that counterfeiting was real, and it was a serious problem for the industry. But the detractors would not back down. I don’t remember what they said, but they stood their ground. Peggy responded, “Well, I guess it’s not so bad, until it’s your product that is counterfeited.” The room fell silent while those words sunk in. I don’t know if they made a mark for anyone else, but I wrote them down and quoted them in my notes for my teammates back at Cardinal. I remember her speaking those words to this day, and how uncomfortable they made me feel at that moment and for a time afterward.
The problem wasn’t made up, and here was a person who had been living it, and trying to solve it. Around that time Pfizer started to put serial numbers on all packages of Viagra distributed in the U.S. market. This was a first for the industry.
After the Jumpstart project completed and eventually the supply of serialized Viagra began flowing through the Cardinal Health distribution centers, I advocated for deploying technologies in at least one of those centers to read them. We were the first wholesale distributor to do so, though others followed. The Cardinal Health team I was a part of worked with the Pfizer team, which Peggy was a part of, to learn and work out the issues encountered.
In the mid-2000s Pfizer and Cardinal Health joined EPCGlobal to continue the work of the Jumpstart project, but in a standards-making context. She participated in every GS1 and GS1 US pharma serialization and tracing group from that point right through to today. Peggy was one of the leaders of those efforts along with Ron Bone and Bob Celeste (see “Thank You Ron Bone!“, and “Thank You Bob Celeste!“). Even when her leadership role was not official she earned her de facto leadership position by being one of the few people everyone listened to when she spoke. She earned the trust of everyone. Her early experience with serialization provided her with a deep understanding of the complexity and limitations of the technology.
Peggy was a role model to me and a great ambassador for her company. She represented her company well and I believe that resulted in a very high opinion of Pfizer in anyone she came into contact with. At least that’s what happened to my opinion of the company.
Those of us who continue to work together to determine the best ways to fight counterfeit drugs, and to meet the serialization and tracing regulations owe a debt to Peggy for her long and steady leadership. Thank you Peggy!