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, 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


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!”

Patients embracing Web 2.0 / Health 2.0

The number of consumers in the US using Web 2.0 technologies in relation to health matters (dubbed ‘Health 2.0’) has doubled in the past year to 60 million people, according to a study just released by Manhattan Research.

Manhattan defines Health 2.0 consumers as people who have: 

  • read health-related blogs, message boards or participated in health-related chatrooms;
  • contributed or posted health content online such as: writing or commenting on a health-related blog, adding or responding to a topic in a forum or group, or creating health related web pages, videos or audio content; or
  • used online patient support groups, message boards, chatrooms, or blogs.

The report says, “Pharmaceutical marketers are catching on to the trends, but there’s a long way to go before brand media closes the gap between where consumers are and where budgets are going – only a small fraction of overall pharmaceutical advertising spend is currently allocated to online campaigns. But as we’re seeing with our clients, consumer trends are prompting marketers to put more weight behind digital strategies.”

“…. Social media is a powerful force impacting the pharmaceutical industry – whether or not brands choose to participate. Taking too conservative of an approach to a channel which thrives on two-way dialogue and open communication will undoubtedly distance brands from consumers – especially for those looking to reach the groups most engaged in Health 2.0. And even if brands aren’t yet ready participate in conversations, some sites sell aggregated data to pharmaceutical companies looking to understand the experiences and challenges that patients face.”

Diabetes sites rank top among pharma product web properties

Maureen Malloy, strategic marketing and corporate communications manager from Manhattan Research and one of my news sources, has sent me some preliminary data on Manhattan’s most recent physician marketing research. She writes:

Manhattan Research just released its annual Top Pharma Product Site list from the ePharma Physician® study.  Overview: Diabetes treatment brand sites from Januvia, Actos, Byetta, and Avandia are among the top pharmaceutical product websites in terms of primary care physician visitation

Top 10 Product Sites Visited by Physicians in 2008

Ranked by Number of U.S. Primary Care Physician Visitors

Position               Product  

    1.                          Januvia

    2.                          Actos

    3.                          Chantix

    4.                          Gardasil

    5.                          Actonel

    6.                          Vytorin

    7.                          Amitiza

    8.                          Byetta

    9.                          Avandia

   10.                         Aciphex


Quote: “This year’s rankings show that market events, rather than just advertising alone, can be critical drivers to brand websites,” points out Meredith Abreu Ressi, VP of Research at Manhattan Research. “Pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that brand websites contain the latest, most accurate content possible and can be found relatively easily by physicians using search engines to research pharmaceutical information.”

Source: ePharma Physician® v8.0 (2008)

More info is available at

Mixed results for ‘academic’ drug reps

In the US, a bill is before Congress proposing to send trained clinicians into doctors’ surgeries to provide independent data about the relative benefits, risks, and costs of drugs, following research that suggests that such “academic detailing” reduces potential prescribing bias from the influence of drug company reps.

Medscape, the top-rating medical website for doctors and consumers, has just released results of a poll of its professional members asking what effect doctors think such a program would have? The results:

  • 18% thought it would significantly reduce bias
  • 33% thought it would somewhat reduce bias
  • 13% thought it would not reduce bias
  • 5% were uncertain
  • 28% said: “My prescribing decisions are not influenced by drug company representatives”

Should pharma companies be worried? As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence, my view is that the ones who should be worried are the ones with less effective or useful products. If your medication is the most effective at treating a worrisome condition or has a great life-saving profile, an academic drug rep will help you, not hurt you.