Pharmaceutical company profits are back. The anything-goes days of pharmaceutical industry funding are gone. But if industry reps say budgets for funding meetings are shrinking, it sure isn't because of profitability. Take a gander at these third- quarter income numbers: Merck & Co. up 16 percent; Johnson & Johnson up 20 percent on a 14 percent sales increase; and Schering-Plough Corporation up 15 percent. The amazing part, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, is that much of this growth is attributable to managed care. An analyst told the Journal that managed care organizations weren't as successful as they had hoped at modifying physician behavior when it came to prescribing. And, with more and more patients in co-pay systems, where they may absorb less than half the cost of the prescriptions out-of-pocket, people are more apt to fill their prescriptions, and have them filled for larger amounts.

On-site corporate meetings help: McGettigan Corporate Planning Services, Philadelphia, PA, now has an office on site at SmithKline Beecham, also in Philadelphia. "We are here to support SmithKline's professional meeting planners, and to serve those divisions that don't have them," says Michael Malinchok, account executive for McGettigan. Help comes in two forms: Employees who need to hold meetings call the on-site office with specifications. Specs are fed into proprietary software called CORE (Consolidating Operating and Reporting Environment), which spits out all hotels that fit the specs from the McGettigan database. The SmithKline planner picks from the list, and requests for bids are automatically faxed.

The second form of help: The software keeps track of SmithKline's meetings activity across divisions. If two divisions plan meetings a week apart at the same property, CORE points this out, and the information may be used to help negotiations. McGettigan maintains a history of its relations with individual properties, which also helps. "We can call the hotel and say, "We've thrown $10 million worth of leads your way this year, so you know we represent volume," says Malinchok.