Marketing Where the Kids Are

August 15, 2007
Pharmaceutical Executive

Volume 0, Issue 0

Pharma surfaces on MySpace

Meet my new MySpace friend: Addiction 411.The moniker isn't another hip online nickname. It belongs to the MySpace page launched August 10 by Reckitt Benckiser. The site's goal: to provide teens and young adults with unbranded health information about addictive prescription painkillers, such as Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen), Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen), and codeine. The company hopes that by using the social-networking site, with its powerful word-of-mouth potential, it will attract people between the ages of 16 and 25--the range for most MySpace users.

"One person can access Addiction 411 and then share that information with a friend who might be having a problem," says Debby Betz, marketing director for Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. "It's our way to reach out into an area that traditional marketing techniques may never be able to access. People of the MySpace generation are often in the forefront of people open to prescription opioid abuse."

The company manufactures the in-office drug-dependence treatment Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone), and it operates two other sites: Suboxone's branded site and the unbranded informational site Turn to Help (turntohelp.com). Both sites are intended to educate people about opioid dependence and available treatment options.

"As we were relaunching Turn to Help in April, we were afraid that we weren't reaching the younger demographic with that Web presence," says Jason C. Foster, marketing manager, news product development, Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals. "The idea came up to go to where those folks are and to try to promote disease awareness and education in an environment where they feel comfortable."

The answer was MySpace. "The goal of our MySpace presence is to educate people about the dangers of prescription-drug misuse," Foster says.

The Addiction 411 site looks nothing like most MySpace pages (or pharma sites for that matter). It has a huge banner that features the site name and some information about drug dependency. Tabbed pages offer more tips and definitions of the street names of drugs. A sidebar allows other MySpace users to easily add the site as a contact or "friend." Visitors can take a quiz to find out if they have an addiction or receive information on how to join a support program.

Addiction 411, like Turn for Help, allows people to find physicians who have the ability to prescribe Suboxone. The medication is a partial agonist designed to help those who are dependent upon opioids to better manage the cravings as well as the withdrawal symptoms they'll experience when they stop taking prescription painkillers or heroin.

Because Suboxone itself contains an opioid, physicians are required to go through special training to prescribe it. Addiction 411 prominently features a locator--operated by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment--that identifies authorized prescribers.

According to Reckitt Benckiser, the MySpace page posed few regulatory concerns beyond those of a traditional unbranded Web site. One issue that did arise was the MySpace feature that allows "friends" to interact with each other by leaving posts. To avoid having unauthorized content on the page, the company removed the feature. The company had wanted to have a pop-up screen that would inform visitors when they left MySpace for an unbranded pharma site, but MySpace put the kibosh on that plan.

The page can be viewed at myspace.com/addiction411