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The Mechanism of Action Narrative: Is Your Brand Using the Right Hook?


Brand Insights - Thought Leadership | Paid Program

Javier F. Negron, PhD
Medical Strategist Proximyl Health, a company of The Agency Network at MJH Life Sciences

Javier F. Negron, PhD
Medical Strategist Proximyl Health, a company of The Agency Network at MJH Life Sciences

Telling a good story that captures attention and leaves a lasting impression on your target audience continues to be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for promoting a brand regardless of the business sector. Physicians are just like everyone else: they like a good story, and part of that story in medicine is understanding how a drug is believed to work before they prescribe it for their patients. This is especially important for drugs that have a novel mechanism of action (MoA), or for drugs that belong to the newest generation of an existing class.

Is your MoA narrative doing all it can to help your brand differentiate?

Communicating the MoA narrative should occur early in the HCP education and adoption process, preferably prior to launch so that customers have time to recognize the difference and importance, and eagerly anticipate the product brand identity at launch. The MoA narrative should provide the scientific rationale as to how the drug may work to reduce symptoms or disease burden, and differentiate as much as possible from the competition. Brand teams, sales representatives, and medical science liaisons are on the frontline communicating with HCPs, helping to bring their brand’s campaign messaging to life. These interactions provide the perfect opportunity to ask your target audience: does the existing MoA narrative intrigue or even make sense? Does it provide the HCP with enough detail to increase their confidence in the drug and how it works? Or is the MoA narrative unclear or confusing, causing HCPs to hesitate and question? Identifying barriers to adoption caused by unclear aspects of the MoA narrative will help inform the development of a revised narrative strategy. 

Uncertainty around your brand’s MoA doesn’t mean the game is over

More than a few drugs have launched with vague descriptions of how they work mechanistically, typically because they lack a preclinical knowledge base that elucidates the direct vs indirect effects that drugs can have in mediating the pathophysiology of disease. Realistically, physicians don’t expect every aspect of a drug’s MoA to be decoded by the time a drug has launched, but they do want some basis for understanding how the drug could potentially be exerting its effects on the disease, whether it be as simple as acting on a specific receptor or inhibiting a specific pathway. In cases where aspects of the MoA are uncertain and there is a desire to elevate the narrative, the brand and medical affairs teams need to be in lockstep as to how detailed the new MoA narrative will be and how far downstream the narrative will take the target audience.

Control the MoA narrative or it will take on a life of its own

Even if an MoA isn’t firmly established in the literature or in the minds of the KOL community, the brand team needs to own and take control of the MoA narrative to help manage the consistency of what HCPs are hearing about how your small molecule or biologic potentially works. Competing brand teams may try to control the MoA narrative of competing agents in an effort to cast additional doubt and uncertainty around brands they deem a threat. Efforts to undermine competing MoA narratives can be insidious and will require a comprehensive assessment of how and where competing brands are reaching HCPs.

Leverage technology that best illustrates the MoA story you want to tell

The use of two-dimensional images and diagrams on paper have been standard for decades prior to the digital detail aid. Digital technology has evolved dramatically in the past two decades, opening up the possibility of utilizing platforms that were previously out of reach for most brands. Every touchpoint with HCPs should be optimized to make the biggest impact possible; this includes an MoA narrative deployment strategy that incorporates high-quality visual simulations detailing the unique aspects of the brand’s MoA. The modern convention booth is pushing the limits of digital technology, with virtual and augmented reality MoA demonstrations becoming more common. These specific digital approaches are not necessary for a successful launch, but they do increase the likelihood that the MoA narrative will be communicated in an effective manner to HCPs.