CommonHealth has launched Shire Hall, a joint venture of CommonHealth and The Shire Hall Group (TSHG). CommonHealth and TSHG are specialist-communications companies in the WPP Group, the global communications-services company. Both report to John Zweig, CEO, Branding and Identity, Healthcare and Specialist Communications, WPP.

Shire Hall will be based in Parsippany, N.J., the global headquarters of CommonHealth, a healthcare-communications network. The new unit will leverage the combined equity of CommonHealth and the London-based TSHG, the largest specialist healthcare consultancy in Europe, to offer a comprehensive range of U.S. and global communications solutions including media relations, pre- and post-launch marketing communications, and professional and advocacy relations.

"Healthcare public relations and medical education are closely linked in Europe, which makes sense given the stakeholders they have in common," said CommonHealth President and CEO Matt Giegerich. "With Shire Hall, we've taken the European model and added promotion, enabling us to work on enhancing outcomes from the individual disciplines and to maximize return on clients' investment throughout the communications cycle.

"While promotion remains essentially a market-by-market proposition, medical education and public relations are increasingly transnational, meaning your local-market and global strategies need to `talk' as never before. Our venture with TSHG deepens CommonHealth's ability to create the right communications mix for clients, regardless of the disciplines and geographies involved," Mr. Giegerich noted.

The Shire Hall Group has an affiliate network of more than 50 companies located in 40 countries throughout the world. The Group's clients include Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Novartis, Servier, Schering Healthcare, Schering-Plough, Takeda and Wyeth Laboratories.

Neil McGregor-Paterson, a former director and board member of Shire Hall Communications, TSHG's founding company, has been named managing director of the unit. Mr. McGregor-Paterson, who joined TSHG in 1995, has more than 13 years of agency and industry experience.

"The Shire Hall Group, like CommonHealth, is built on the concept of `centers of excellence' in healthcare communications," said Margot James, TSHG's chief executive. "Now, with three major networks to pull from - those of TSHG, CommonHealth and WPP itself - the joint venture will have access to best-in-class expertise across categories, audience segments and markets from the moment it opens its doors," James said.

CommonHealth comprises Shire Hall, Thomas Ferguson Associates, Adient, The Quantum Group, Noesis Healthcare Interactions, The Xchange Group, Health Learning Systems, ProCom International, The Conectics Group, Enterprise IG Health, EinsonHealth, MD&A/Salud, MBS/Vox, CommonHealth Europe, CommonHealth Australia and CommonHealth Kyowa.

CommonHealth also has partnerships with the following companies: CIA Medianetwork, Medical Broadcasting Company (MBC), Pedagogue Solutions and SoftWatch.

The Shire Hall Group comprises Shire Hall, Shire Hall Communications, Shire Hall International, 4D Communications, Shire Hall Health Policy Unit, Shire Hall Media, Shire Hall DTC and Shire Hall Netwise - a specialist unit responsible for creating and delivering new-media solutions to clinicians, funders, patients and journalists.