The 500 attendees of the spring 2002 ePharma Summit, which included pharma marketers, e-communications managers, and technology
providers, maintained a "buyer beware" outlook. As healthcare companies integrate technology applications into offline activities,
they continue to seek definitive return on investment (ROI) from those initiatives.
Pharma companies are experiencing a "build-out" period similar to those occurring during previous information revolutions,
according to Newt Crenshaw, vice-president of e.Lilly, the company's online investment arm. He says computers will become
more "people-literate," and the focus will shift from a preoccupation with the novelty of specific technologies to using them
to create value.
The summit's exhibit floor reflected industry's understanding of the change in consumers' internet use. Search engine displays
such as Ask Jeeves and Yahoo! have replaced health portal and website exhibits. Other changes include pharma companies' progress
toward "customer relationship management maturity," according to Alasdair Mackintosh, vice-president of Cap Gemini Ernst &
Young. Currently, companies access sales and physician-prescribing data from multiple channels. But, he says, by 2007 most
companies could move beyond physician-level data and conduct fully integrated customer interactions with all stakeholders
across all channels.
In addition, marketers seem to be raising the standards for their own e-initiatives and evaluating measurement tools more
carefully. That was demonstrated in a case study presented by Atul Singh, head of e-business for Teva Neuroscience, who discussed
the MSWatch website, a company-funded online community for multiple sclerosis patients and their families. Questions from
a Forrester Research audience member showed that he was unwilling to accept "soft" ROI numbers that indicated MSWatch.com
had increased sales of the company's MS treatment Copaxone (glatiramer). That typified the skepticism common among industry
Participants also questioned other models, such as the validity of the traditional R&D structure. Crenshaw discussed how e-R&D
can improve pharma's innovation pipeline by minimizing investment and risk. He cited Eli Lilly's InnoCentive, a website that
posts scientific problems and offers financial rewards for solutions.
Other conference highlights included a presentation by attorney Dean Forbes of the Federal Trade Commission's advertising
practices division, in which he reviewed the FTC's new privacy agenda and discussed the agency's litigation against Eli Lilly
for revealing the e-mail addresses of 669 subscribers to the Prozac.com medication reminder service. He said pharma executives
have a responsibility to know what data their sites collect and must take appropriate security measures to protect consumers'