The blood, sweat, and tears of pharmaceutical marketing to influence the pen are in vain if the prescription is never filled. Yet, getting patients to fill their scripts has always been a challenge—both for physicians and pharma marketers. In a white paper, the Utilization Review Accreditation Commission points out that “the rates of poor adherence have not changed significantly over the past several decades and continue to remain at an unacceptable level.” However, the reasons why have changed dramatically over time, and the numbers are staggering. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that nearly one third of patients fail to fill first-time prescriptions—the primary reason being cost.
Marketing strategies must include affordable messaging as physicians now have to juggle clinical profile, managed care formulary status, and cost implications when writing prescriptions.
Adding Fuel to Fire
Innovative new therapies have come at steep cost. Increasingly complex biologics translates into increased drug efficacy and expensive development, elbowing out the potential for generics. To combat these high costs, the Affordable Care Act authorized the FDA to create a streamlined approval process for biosimilars. “Biological products tend to be products that have very high prices,” said Dr. John Jenkins, director of the FDA’s Office of New Drugs in its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “With competition, one of the goals is to see, hopefully, lower prices that will make access better for the patients who need these products.”
With the recent FDA approval of the first biosimilar drug this month, price cut expectations and aggressive competition as more biosimilars come down the pike are posing an even grimmer threat to the revenues of blockbuster drugs. Affordability messaging is now just as important, if not more so, than promoting a brand’s clinical profile. Physicians and patients need to see the name beyond the dollar sign.
A Changing Tide
Patient savings programs have evolved from “nice-to-have” into “need-to-have.” Pharmaceutical companies are taking steps to both improve and promote affordability on the consumer level. Data from a consumer health study by Kantar Media revealed that 26% of adults use some type of assistance, savings, or loyalty offer or program, with 69% of respondents reporting use of a prescription discount or savings card in the last year alone. Bob Ehrlich, Chairman of DTC Perspectives, Inc., explains, “As patients start demanding value for their money, drug companies need to change their engagement strategies.” Ehrlich says added value can be achieved in many ways, including:
Successful drug companies will be those who market these price values to the patient and physician. Advertising affordability on the consumer level should go hand-in-hand with promoting affordability to doctors. In his newsletter, “DTC Perspectives: Patients are Becoming the Payer,” Ehrlich writes, “we can certainly expect patients to react to this cost shift by engaging in traditional consumer behavior. The idea that patients accept whatever the doctor suggests will be affected by cost. As unseemly as it is, patients will be challenging their provider on price/value. They will demand in advance understandable explanations as to cost and the alternatives.”
Pharmaceutical Companies React
As patients push back on prescriptions and/or fail to fill them, pharmaceutical companies need to build relationships with physicians as patient advocates. “We need to work with pharmaceutical representatives and give them feedback on insurance coverage issues when we’re advocating for newer drugs,” explains J. Baker, MD, in an interview with Physician’s Weekly. Dr. Baker stresses the importance of physicians being updated on drug assistance programs so they’re able to direct patients to services. “It’s important for physicians to be aware of coupons and rebate offers from drug manufacturers of newer medications,” he adds.
Rampant cost-savings messaging and 30-day free trials should target both physicians and patients. In his article “The Growing Prevalence of Affordability Messaging,” Jeff Perino writes that branded drugs are now launching right out of the gate with savings programs addressing challenges like increasing generic competition, low patient adherence, and reaching HCP customers. “The result is that today’s conversations between sales reps and their HCP customers often include talk about a drugs savings offer,” he says. “By addressing affordability, [pharma marketers will] allow HCPs and their patients to more fully appreciate the clinical profile and distinction of the brand itself.”]]>
Late last year, Mark Perlotto, founder and president of Excitant Healthcare Advertising wrote “no matter how enthusiastic we are about the shiny new tools in our toolbox, and no matter how much we talk to each other at digital conferences about how digital and mobile and social have grown from mere tactics to Capital-S Strategy, vast swaths of our audience are still consuming vast swaths of content via traditional channels” (read more here). The reason physicians and patients still use print, according to Perlotto, is that “the speed of technology evolution is outpacing human habits, and human nature.”
In fact, according to a Kantar Media survey of 3,000 physicians across 22 specialties, more than half (55%) still read articles from medical publications in physical form. That’s nearly double the number who read such articles on tablets (28%), and well more than double the number who read them on a smartphone (21%).
What’s more, last year we reported that CMI/Compass data (request online at www.compasonline.com/insights) found that physicians in 10 specialties indicated print to be the #1 resource for them to keep abreast of medical developments and treatment options, not to mention the #1 channel where they noticed pharma brand ads.
We think Perlotto summed the situation up best when he wrote, “Yes, digital is the future of marketing. But brands and the people that use them don’t live in the future— they live now. To be successful as marketers, we need to remember two things: 1) that our messages belong where our audience is today—not where they may be in the future and 2) because our target audiences are not homogeneous, applying a balanced marketing mix is crucial.”]]>
A study published recently in the Journal of the Medical Library Association (read it here) sheds light on the amount of medical literature physicians would need to read to stay current in their specialties. Looking at journals listed in five primary care journal review services, the researchers found 341 currently active journals, with an estimated 7,287 articles published monthly. They figured that physicians trained in epidemiology would need an estimated 627.5 hours per month (or 20 hours per day) to evaluate these articles.
No physician is able to read that much and still manage their patients and medical practice. They must be selective, and survey results from Doximity (learn more here) show how they do it. Released in July, the survey found that the vast majority (98%) of physicians said reading medical literature was important or very important to their practice.
And all that reading impacted the way they practiced medicine. In fact, 14% of physicians reported that reading medical literature directly changed their clinical practice with patients on a weekly basis, 28% said these changes occurred monthly, 44% said they occurred quarterly, and 14% said they occurred yearly. That’s almost 75% of physicians changing their clinical practice monthly or quarterly based on reading medical literature. What’s more, 16% said reading medical literature directly helped save the life of a patient in the last 12 months.
With physicians apparently knowing that medical literature influences their decisions and directly impacts their patients’ lives, the challenge for marketers, then, seems to be the ability to “provide compelling medical literature to physicians in a way that fits into their workflow,” writes Bob MacAvoy, Senior Vice President, Business Development at Doximity (read Bob’s full article here).
Providing compelling literature that meets the needs of a brand’s marketing campaign is up to you. But Physician’s Weekly provides a proven vehicle for delivering that content to physicians without disrupting their workflow, and with content that highlights key study findings from the medical literature—thus alleviating some of that burden physicians have in trying to stay on top of the ever-growing mass of medical literature.]]>
Awareness campaigns have been used for quite some time in the healthcare arena, with pharma being no exception, and they continue to be used.
For example, Sanofi and Regeneron have partnered with the non-profit cardiovascular health group Mended Hearts and the industry-supported Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association to conduct a pre-launch survey around the experimental anti-cholesterol agent alirocumab (learn more here). Novartis recently polled consumers in Europe about heart health awareness in a campaign around their experimental heart failure drug LCZ696 (learn more here). And the Cleveland Clinic explored heart disease knowledge among Americans last year (learn more here).
These campaigns can be incredibly expensive; indeed, the CDC spent about $48 million on its 2012 Tips From Former Smokers campaign (learn more here). With such high costs going into awareness campaigns, one would certainly want to know if they’re successful. However, gauging the success of these campaigns has largely been a secret endeavor, as pharma-sponsored efforts are proprietary and therefore contain results that are rarely available for public view.
That’s where new evidence published in the British Journal of Cancer comes into play (see the article here). The UK’s Department of Health funded a campaign to raise public awareness of persistent cough as a lung cancer symptom and encourage people with the symptom to visit the general practitioner, through ad such as this:
The campaign worked. During a 3-month push, primary care docs referred more than 3,000 extra patients to get tested, about 700 of whom were diagnosed with lung cancer. What’s more, a survey following the campaign found that 33% knew that a 3-week cough was a cancer symptom, compared with 18% before the campaign.
Meanwhile, the CDC recently reported that the Tips From Former Smokers campaign had an ROI of helping 100,000 smokers quit and preventing about 17,000 premature deaths. The financial return, according to the CDC, is about $268 per year of healthy life gained and savings of $2,200 per avoided premature death. The organization estimates the campaign will save about 179,000 healthy life-years, making the total estimated savings about $48 million (equal to the amount spent).
Imagine if the CDC’s ROI would be if they had a product to sell. With the information gained through the awareness program, efforts to address smoking prevention and cessation can be targeted. The same holds true in pharma, which may explain the recent efforts of Novartis and Sanofi and Regeneron. An awareness plan can help articulate plans in the pre-launch stage of a product. Post-launch campaigns can be used to identify the right patients and providers with whom messaging can be reinforced.]]>
According to the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), there are currently more than 44,000 physicians in this fastest growing medical specialty with an estimated an annual growth of as much as 10%. And they’re becoming increasingly influential, with SHM estimating that 60% of hospitalists write more than 50 prescriptions per week, according to Dobrow. “If you have a hospital-based product, they’re using it. If you have an outpatient-based product, they’re prescribing it—and if they prescribe it, the patient will stay on it,” Mike Luby, founder, president and CEO of BioPharma Alliance told Dobrow.
But the fact remains that these physicians are increasingly hard to reach for sales reps. “For pharma reps, the model has historically been based around interruption,” Dan Dunlop, principal at healthcare marketing agency Jennings told Dobrow. “They go in and interrupt physicians’ lives. In this day and age, getting in somebody’s way isn’t the best thing to build your business model on… These physicians in particular didn’t go into medicine to deal with all the side stuff.
Dobrow offers five tips for cracking the Hospitalist code, including bending the rules, not whining about the lack of access, and speaking with others in the hospital, like nurses, who may be interested in what the rep has to say. But none of these are sure-fire ways to get your brand messaging in front of hospitalists’ eyes. For that, you need a product with a proven track record or accessing providers in the hospital without interrupting their workflow. Contact Physician’s Weekly to learn how we can help.]]>
A report released earlier this week by ZS Associates (learn more here) found that consumer-facing point-of-care (POC) marketing spend in the U.S. increased 10% each year since 2010 and is expected to reach $400 million by the end of the year. This growth is projected to exceed $500 million in the next 2 to 4 years, from 6.7% to 10.0% of overall DTC spending.
The growth, according to ZS, comes from the recognition by health and wellness companies, including pharma, of increasing opportunities in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and hospitals (aka, the POC channel) to “reach and engage with patients primed to receive information about their health.”
Other key findings from the report include:
Commenting on the report, Hensley Evans, principal at ZS, said “The POC waiting room is a pivotal place and time for consumer exposure to health care information and branded materials. When patients and caregivers trust the source and absorb these materials, they are likely to bring that information into (and ultimately influence the direction of) their treatment discussions with a physician.”
These conversations can also be influenced from the physician perspective. Pharma marketers are well aware that physicians remain the primary influencer of which medication a patient will receive. By targeting physicians—as well as patients—at the point of care, a brand can best position themselves for new patients. While avenues for reaching physicians at the point of care are limited, Physician’s Weekly has a proven ability as the marketing leaders in this area. Contact us to learn more.]]>
In a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Christopher Manz, MD, Joseph S. Ross, MD, MHS, and David Grande, MD, MPA, wrote a perspective on marketing to physicians in a digital world (access the full piece here). The physicians note that electronic health record systems (EHRs) have provided marketers with an ability to market at the point of care through “banner ads, industry-sponsored clinical resources, and tools for requesting samples, article reprints, and other items—a role previously filled by sales representatives.”
However, as Deborah Weinstein over at MM&M perfectly summarizes, the physician trio also say “that this marketing access is another reason to be disgruntled, because EHRs have essentially become marketing pathways that undermine no-see policies that many hospital groups set up for the very purpose of keeping marketers and diagnosticians separate… They are also concerned that the seamless integration of medical information and marketing will make parsing the two increasingly difficult.”
Manz, Ross, and Grande are calling for a number of steps to police digital marketing practices, including those already applied to print. They also suggest that providers and hospitals could simply refuse EHRs that allow marketing.
The overarching message is that providers tend to see EHR marketing in its current state as invasive and taking away from patients as the main focus of care. While standard print products like direct mail pieces and journals aren’t as invasive, they often get tossed in the trash or don’t reach the point of care. However, non-invasive products at the point of care, like Physician’s Weekly wallboards, can help make sure your brand doesn’t miss out on influencing targets in hospitals and offices. Contact us to learn how.]]>