A healthy market opportunity

I was interviewed recently on the latest developments in digital pharma marketing. Here’s an excerpt of the story from the HotHouse blog:

The rise of digital in all its forms – Internet, mobile, social media, online video – has fuelled the shift from selling and marketing products to selling and marketing services, as consumers have replaced manufacturers at the centre of the marketing universe.

Everything from product development to promotion to post-purchase evaluation is today built around understanding and meeting customer needs.”

This is abundantly apparent in an area like healthcare. From a product-focused sector based solely on convincing doctors to prescribe medications based on scientific evidence (and a few educational dinners), drugmakers are building portfolios of services aimed at patients and doctors around their brands, helping healthcare professionals tackle issues like patient compliance and health education as direct promotion takes a back seat.

Big numbers

I discussed the implications of these trends with healthcare digital strategist (and HotHouse content producer) Ray Welling in this month’sHotHouse podcast. And while the growth of online generally as a medium and a marketing tool has been impressive, the numbers for healthcare are truly staggering.

Read the full story

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Another pharma on YouTube

Sanofi-aventis has joined other top pharma companies in launching a channel on YouTube to spruik its products – er, make that raise awareness of an important health issue. The channel, Go Insulin, includes seven video case studies of people who used insulin to overcome their diabetes issues, and links to a related website, GoInsulin.com. As it says on the channel blurb, “Watch videos of real people as they talk about their struggles to achieve their blood sugar goals. Find out the difference insulin made for them.”

Disclosure: The author of this blog formerly worked in e-business and e-marketing at sanofi-aventis

EHRs and investment deficit disorder

Just read a comprehensive, well-researched, thought-provoking article in the New York Times about the global economic crisis and the tasks facing Barack Obama as he tries to turn the US around. Smack dab in the middle of it was, of all things, a reference to electronic health records:

“One good way to understand the current growth slowdown is to think of the debt-fueled consumer-spending spree of the past 20 years as a symbol of an even larger problem. As a country we have been spending too much on the present and not enough on the future. We have been consuming rather than investing. We’re suffering from investment-deficit disorder.

“You can find examples of this disorder in just about any realm of American life. Walk into a doctor’s office and you will be asked to fill out a long form with the most basic kinds of information that you have provided dozens of times before. Walk into a doctor’s office in many other rich countries and that information — as well as your medical history — will be stored in computers. These electronic records not only reduce hassle; they also reduce medical errors. Americans cannot avail themselves of this innovation despite the fact that the United States spends far more on health care, per person, than any other country. We are spending our money to consume medical treatments, many of which have only marginal health benefits, rather than to invest it in ways that would eventually have far broader benefits.”

Sadly, Australia is not one of those “rich countries” referred to in the article; our progess toward implementing electronic health initiatives is far behind even the US…

There is also a discussion on how the US spends too much on medical treatments that don’t work particularly well (trouble ahead for the pharma industry). The whole article is well worth reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/magazine/01Economy-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

MJA online – who are they kidding?

The Medical Journal of Australia announced today that it was going to lock down content on its website to subscribers-only. David More from the AusHealth IT blog points out the many fallacies in the rationale for this decision. He writes that: “If the MJA thinks it is of similar prestige to the Annals, JAMA, the BMJ or Lancet it is smoking a very strong brew of something which I suspect is not legal…. we now find Australia lacks an open professional platform for discussion of Health Policy….  (C)losing a professional health publications is a retrograde step in an era when we are working to improve information flows in health.”

I agree – the MJA needs to take a dose of reality pills and embrace the fact that the searchability and easy access of the journal over the past 10 years has added value to the MJA, and it will become a lot less useful and used.

Digital marketing push for pharma in 2009

From iMedia:

“The pharmaceutical industry is preparing to make a big push in the digital marketing space in 2009, according to a new survey from MarketBridge. Although the industry is largely behind the curve when it comes to digital marketing, nearly 45 percent of pharmaceutical executives made it clear that they need to better understand the opportunity, and more than a third said they’re not adequately organized to take advantage, ClickZ reports.

“Half of all those who responded to the ‘Digital Marketing in Pharma’ survey said less than 10 percent of their company’s marketing budget is allocated to digital. Moreover, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty among pharmaceutical companies about whether they can prove a substantial return on investment if they put more efforts into digital marketing.

“At least 72 percent of all respondents said they would be investing more in 2009, although that may be tempered somewhat by the recession. Partha Krishnamurthy, director of the University of Houston’s Institute for Health Care Marketing, suggests that large pharmaceutical companies face significant risk if they embrace Web 2.0. By its very nature, digital marketing will give consumers a louder voice in shaping a brand’s message, and those with the most negative experiences can easily rise to the top.”

Conference booth = advertising?

From BNET’s 10 weirdest drug stories of the month comes the following, originally reported by the Science Insider blog:

“Most scientific meetings don’t need bouncers. But a Novartis stand at the annual gathering of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene had two guards—just to keep away U.S. residents.

“The reason? The booth has information about Coartem, an anti-malarial drug sold by the tens of millions of doses in the developing world. As long as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet given its green light to Coartem (a decision is due on 26 December) the stand would constitute an advertisement for an unapproved drug, says Novartis’s Hans Rietveld—and that’s illegal.

“Reactions among conventioneers ranged from puzzled and amused to annoyed. But not to worry: The drug was also discussed during several scientific sessions.”

Pharma marketing in the toilet?

Pharma Marketing reports:

“Whenever I hear or read about pharmaceutical executives bragging about their product “pipelines” to Wall Street investors I think of the Alaska oil pipeline – a huge and imposing structure, carefully engineered to bring me a product I need and desire.

“I don’t think about bathroom drain pipes discharging waste that I want to get rid of. But that’s apparently how the editors of Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine see drug pipelines if the cover image of the latest, December 2008, issue is any guide.

“PE has chosen to represent a drug pipeline by the type of PVC drain pipes commonly seen under our bathroom sinks, complete with the U-shaped “sludge” trap and all.

“PE shows money flowing into its “pipeline” at one end and pills coming out the other.

“But we all know that with bathroom drains, it’s always garbage in, garbage out!

“Is there some kind of subliminal message that PE is sending here? ‘Money down the drain’ comes to mind!”