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.
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.
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.