Since changes to the PhRMA code were announced last summer and implemented on January 1st of this year, many questions crucial
to pharma marketers have gone unanswered: Will exhibiting continue to be a valuable marketing activity? Will new restrictions
on promotional items impact exhibit hall visitation? What kinds of medically relevant materials do physicians view as most
Now findings from a study reveal that the new changes have had a minimal impact on visitation to exhibits at medical meetings.
Marketech conducted the study, and highlights were presented in a white paper, "What's the Real Impact of PhRMA Code Changes
on Convention Marketing," distributed to attendees at the Healthcare Convention Exhibitors Association (HCEA) annual meeting
in Tampa, Fla., last June.
DIGITAL VISION, GETTY IMAGES
To assess the code's impact, the study was conducted in two phases—before and after the code went into effect.
Data showed that of 550 study participants interviewed, more than 85 percent indicated that changes in the PhRMA code have
not impacted their visitation to exhibits at medical conventions.
Do Promotional Incentives Unduly Pressure Prescribing?
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) originally developed its PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare
Professionals in July 2002. An updated version that prohibits the use of non-educational items—such as branded pens and coffee
mugs—took effect on January 1, 2009.
For pharma, the importance of meaningful face-to-face encounters between sales reps and healthcare professionals cannot be
understated, especially at a time when pharma's sales forces have been cut and access to physicians limited.
How HCPs Typically Get Information About a Specific Product
Today's Changed Environment
Pharma's investment in healthcare exhibit marketing is considerable. According to HCEA, in 2008 the average member-company
spend on healthcare exhibit marketing products and services was $4,002,977. (All pharmaceutical companies in the Fortune 500
and Global 500 are members of HCEA.)
Historically, there is significant evidence that showcases the advantages that exhibit-based marketing offers to those who
participate. For example, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 76 percent of all trade show and
convention attendees arrive at exhibitions with an agenda. This suggests that for most visitors, a visit to the exhibit hall
is purposeful and goal-driven. CEIR data also shows that memorability for a particular company, product, or service can increase
as much as 77 percent for as long as 10 weeks after an exhibition.
Phase I of Marketech's study was conducted last fall, before the new PhRMA code took effect. A total of 858 face-to-face interviews
were completed with attendees who visited the exhibit areas at six medical conventions. Phase II of the research was conducted
in the spring, after implementation of the new code. The second phase included 550 interviews at four medical conventions.
The findings reflect the opinions of a wide range of healthcare professionals—primary care, immunology, thoracic surgery,
hematology, endocrinology, clinical oncology, and other specialties. Added to CEIR's research, the study provides further
evidence that exhibiting at healthcare conventions continues to be a valuable component of the marketing plan.