Although the world of pharmaceuticals and medical technology can seem clinical and difficult to conceptualize, Andy Long has a deeply personal understanding of how prescription medicines can impact someone’s life. As chief financial officer for Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based out of Phoenix, Long sees the work that Insys does reflected in the medical hardships faced by his own family—loved ones who could have been helped by Insys’s innovations, and some who could still be.
“Almost every product Insys produces has the potential to touch someone in my life,” says Long, who joined the company in 2017 after having already spent more than twenty years in the healthcare industry. Prior to Insys, Long spent much of his career in operational roles where he led large teams of individuals on a global scale, a huge contrast to his current leadership position. He still acts as a business partner like he did in previous jobs, he says, but at INSYS he has taken on additional responsibilities in a more corporate role, managing functions such as tax, treasury, and investor relations for the first time.
Long has more than a business interest in seeing the company succeed, however. Take, for instance, Insys’s first commercialized product, Subsys, a medication for addressing breakthrough cancer pain in adults, and recently launched Syndros, which is intended to alleviate certain symptoms associated with chemotherapy such as nausea. Long’s father, who died of cancer, suffered from both symptoms.
When Long’s father went through his cancer treatment, his doctors didn’t speak to him about his pain and postchemotherapy nausea, Long says. Because of this, he had to watch his father go through a tremendous amount of pain during his treatment, including significant weight loss due to his nausea. Although antiemetics to address his nausea were available in tablet form at the time, Long wishes there had been an oral solution like Syndros available for his father. “I keep wondering how his quality of life could have been improved had he had access to our products,” Long says.
Although his father has passed away, Long has other members of his family he would love to see benefit from Insys’s research and advancements in the future. Currently, the company is conducting extensive research into the synthetic cannabinoid molecule cannabidiol (CBD), which is being studied as a possible therapy to treat various neurological diseases. Although the research is in its infancy, Long says it holds promise for patients with everything from epilepsy to post-traumatic stress disorder to autism. Long’s cousin’s teenage son, who suffers from a form of epilepsy as well as his own son who is on the autism spectrum, could potentially find relief with CBD-related products that come out of this research.
Insys is also working on another product that could potentially help his son, who in addition to autism, also suffers from significant life-threatening allergies. Not only could Insys’s research into CBD lead to products that could potentially treat autism, but the company is also working on an easy-to-use nasal spray that could serve as an alternative to epinephrine intramuscular injections. “The thought of injecting anyone with that, let alone your son, is unsettling,” Long says. “How much less stressful would a nasal inhaler be for both of us?”
Connections like these are particularly motivating for Long, and they significantly impact Long’s perspective on Insys’s work. “Anyone in the healthcare industry understands the work they do touches lives,” says Long, “but it’s that much more personal when you can take the product you are actually working on and apply it to your immediate family.”
While Long’s work is on the financial side of the company, he is fully engaged in all areas of the business in an effort to make Insys Therapeutics successful in developing its pharmaceutical pipeline. While new to the CFO role, Long has leveraged his previous operational experience to improve many of Insys’s existing processes. “Over the course of my career, I’ve developed an approach to drive improvements to business performance,” he says.
His major principles include measuring the outcomes of what you are trying to affect and identifying the root causes of what you wish to accomplish. From there, it’s important to develop action plans, execute them, and measure the impact, course-correcting where necessary. Applying these principles to his work at Insys has led to some solid wins, he says, including a significant initiative to save millions on the company’s sales-return performance.
In addition, Long has worked to position the finance function as a more effective business partner within the company. Long says that the finance team is in a unique position because it touches every other function within Insys. To that end, Long endeavors to identify connections across the organization that others may not see. By reaching out to improve communication between departments, Long encourages his team to interface with all functions across the company to identify opportunities to improve processes. “The best finance people are true business partners to the organization,” Long says.
As he continues to play a part in Insys’s ongoing transformation, his work remains firmly grounded in the personal connections he makes between the company’s work and the people that could be helped by their efforts. “It’s pretty amazing to be involved in a company that could work on a drug that could help children around the world one day,” Long says.
Enjoying a Change-up
When he’s not helping Insys Therapeutics in its goal to develop medical products that will help individuals with autism, like his son, Andy Long makes sure he and his kid are able to share some quality time together.
“He’s a big fan of sports,” Long says, who regularly enjoyed attending Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games with him and, after they moved to Phoenix, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two also exercise regularly, going to the local health club every Saturday to walk and run on the track.
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