Medical Education: A Platform for Success

By pumping the science behind a brand, pharmaceutical companies can garner early loyalists—before a drug even hits the market.
Feb 01, 2007

Larry Iaquinto
Feeling excited about some late Phase II clinical trial data? Then it's time to switch into promotional medical education mode. How to get started? The best way is through a scientific platform. Here's what it is: a hub of all communications tools—both educational and promotional—necessary for priming the market and your intended audience for a new drug. The goal? To identify the key communication tools that will create interest among key opinion leaders and, ultimately, the prescribing community as a whole.

A promotional medical education program built around a scientific platform spotlights the following: how a drug works, how it might alter patients' lives, how it changes the treatment regime, and in some cases, how doctors could modify their management of patients with the disease. It also helps to ensure brand and market convergence at the time of product launch, which is essential to changing the way the medical community views a disease, treats it, or utilizes new ways of monitoring disease and treatment effects. Without this convergence, interest in the brand could be limited because awareness of certain market, disease, or therapeutic concepts may be out of sync or lag behind the most recent developments. The scientific platform takes such gaps into consideration and closes them through effective communication of the brand's therapeutic concepts.

Steven Palmisano
The ability to incorporate material assembled in the scientific platform into educational programs will determine the level of success in enlightening physicians on new and emerging concepts for the treatment of a disease and/or a drug's ability to impact management of the disease. The following generalized case history provides an illustration of the process.

Diabetes Treatment

Type II diabetes is a devastating and growing condition. The pharma industry has spent many years launching new products to assist healthcare providers in controlling the symptoms of patients living with diabetes. During this time, the industry developed educational programs based on what has been the medical profession's standard for treating the disease: by curbing patients' resistance to insulin. Now that new drugs are being developed that affect more than insulin resistance, additional education is needed to prepare healthcare providers to think differently, based on emerging scientific information.

As an example, over the last several years, pharma companies have begun to convey scientific information supporting the idea that diabetes is a disease with multiple pathophysiologies (islet cell dysfunction, including the role of alpha cells and beta cells, glucagon as well as insulin, hepatic glucose overproduction, and insulin resistance). For years the healthcare industry worked under the assumption that the primary pathophysiology and means of managing diabetics was by addressing insulin resistance. But by the time patients are diagnosed with type II diabetes, they have already lost one-half of their beta cell function. This understanding has changed the approach to the disease and elevated the need to educate doctors about the implications of treating diabetes in the future. Broadly speaking, therefore, diabetes is still predominantly about glucose regulation. However, we now know that incretin hormones (GLP-1 and GIP) regulate both insulin from the beta cells and glucagon from alpha cells. To coincide with this learning, several new drug classes are under development. Some, which have an effect on these incretin hormones released from the proximal and distal gastrointestinal tract, have recently been approved.

The emerging scientific knowledge about incretins and the known effects of drugs in development on incretin hormones could become core components of a scientific platform, and therefore a part of educational programs created to educate the target audience (physicians and other healthcare professionals). Crafting a scientific platform to create awareness of a new disease management protocol of this magnitude may take as much as six months or more (and several years to implement in the market), and requires the participation of professionals with medical and scientific experience.

Building the Platform

The scientific platform approach can serve as a new model for preparing a brand for the market and reconciling the product's mechanism of action with today's disease management. While exhaustive directions for constructing such a platform are beyond the scope of this article, the framework can be encapsulated in a set of essential, substantive steps.

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