Talk of the Town

Oct 31, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Executive


Jeff Kozloff
REMS programs. Megamergers. Generic encroachment. New sampling guidelines. The "unknowns" in the pharma industry have never been more prevalent or complex. But despite volumes of lagging prescription data and recall-based market research, pharma is still struggling to understand and anticipate how each new industry issue will impact current and future success. The key to understanding these issues lies in an area that sales and marketing teams, surprisingly, often overlook: the real-life, in-office dialogue between patients and physicians.


David Frank
Critical information about naturally occurring patient–physician interactions at the point of care allows pharma to understand how industry issues truly affect or do not affect patients and physicians. Equipped with these insights, pharma can deliver meaningful strategic and tactical support to physicians, helping them educate and negotiate with patients—ultimately enabling pharmas to protect their R&D investments and drive physician and patient adoption of their brands.

Less Dominant, More Relevant

To be successful in today's economic climate, pharmas need to focus on how macro industry conditions are playing out at the micro, interactional level. This micro focus allows pharmas to better position themselves as the industry narrative changes from dominance to relevance, where the future of brand marketing is characterized less by blockbusters and more by battles for the hearts and minds of physicians and patients. By monitoring the authentic dialogue between physicians and patients, pharmas can position themselves as relevant participants in the health care exchange.

In order to become more relevant, pharmas will need to lay down stakes with smaller, more targeted physician and patient populations, developing a grounded understanding of the needs, values, attitudes, and beliefs of specific groups of physicians treating specific groups of patients with unique physiologic profiles, life situations, and health attitudes. Pharmas that fail to position themselves in terms of relevancy risk being viewed as intrusive in the physician–patient relationship, jeopardizing the physician–pharma/brand relationship.

Here's how brand teams can leverage patient-physician dialogue to overcome a few of today's most challenging industry issues.

Generic Encroachment

The financial burden of healthcare, particularly in the current economic climate, is significant. Meanwhile, the acceleration of patent expirations will result in significant decreases in Big Pharma revenues. With approximately $157 billion in sales exposed to generic erosion by 2012, pharmaceutical companies will face revenue losses of 2 to 40 percent. Physicians and patients are keenly aware of the cost of patent-protected treatments and of the time frames in which generic options will become available. And patients are not afraid to ask for generic alternatives.

Even when generic alternatives are not available, it is not uncommon for physicians to provide patients with a time line of when generics will become available. This tendency of physicians to simply acquiesce to requests for generics suggests that they are either unwilling or unable to reasonably argue the need to remain on branded therapy. Marketers can help brands become more relevant to the patient–physician interaction and maximize true brand potential at the point of care by:
» Providing efficacy and outcomes data on branded versus generic products to physicians
» Providing clear, illustrative anecdotes and analogies to help physicians transfer this information to patients
» Putting patient assistance programs at the forefront of their outreach and awareness campaigns.