Certainly, Pfizer is not the only company that is considering reworking its communications spend. Patrick Burns, principal
for San Diego-based BW Analytics, a firm that specializes in pharma return-on-investment strategies, says, "Historically,
the most effectiveness in promotional dollars has been realized in the field sales force. But as an industry, we're getting
close to filling the waiting rooms with more sales reps than patients."
Reaching Healthcaren Professionals
To prevent this, Burns cautions clients not to ramp up their field sales forces when they enter a new market and then lay
them off later. "The smarter strategy," he says, "is to look at the existing field force, track their activities along with
other promotional channels, and do mid-course adjustments as needed."
In particular, Burns says, the practice of sampling is due for an adjustment. This is a hotly debated topic because the cost
of doling out drug samples to physicians can't, in fairness, be measured in retail sale value. Nonetheless, it's still an
enormous expense. "For decades, samples have primarily been an access tool for the sales rep to get face time with healthcare
providers," Burns says. "But some pharma companies have over-invested in samples to the point that doctors are writing less
prescriptions because their sample closets are stuffed."
That type of ROI analysis is characteristic of what smart marketers are doing at drug companies. They are undertaking a critical,
tactical analysis of a promotional effort's overall impact on drug sales. "They're not just looking at the effect of detailing
and sampling on their own," says Burns. They're looking for cohesion between their direct-to-physician and DTC activities
and what can be done to maximize those dollars."
That learning curve has been underway for the last few years. What's still left to be understood, however, is how pharma marketers
should grow those integrated efforts into more holistic healthcare messages, the kind that the industry's stakeholders are
The Self-Care Shift
Almost all analysts interviewed see 2005 as a bridge to a new era of promotion. They predict a shift, rather than a reduction,
in total drug promotion spend in 2005 and beyond.
Reaching Consumers Online
"In twelve to eighteen months you'll see a greater push toward drug adherence marketing," Boehm says, "especially among the
statins like AstraZeneca's Crestor (rosuvastatin), Merck's Zocor (simvastin) and Pfizer's Lipitor (atorvastatin)." Keeping
consumers on these medications is a challenge that is landing squarely in marketers' laps. One industry study, Boehm says,
indicates 50 percent of patients on these cholesterol-busters stop taking them after six months; 60 percent are off-the-statin-wagon
"There's lots of reasons why this happens," she says, ranging from the economic to the physical. "Marketers will begin experimenting
on how to get people to stay on their drugs; it's not straightforward or clear how to do that."