Category: Pharmaceutical Marketing

What’s in a Name???

Here’s an interesting one, the likes of which we have never seen before. When the Pfizer vaccine received final FDA approval, the company quickly rolled out a brand name for the product. Comirnaty. You can see the “creatives’” minds at work coming up with this one.  “Co” for COVID. “mirna” for the first authorized messenger RNA. “ty” for community. 

The only question is whether any of this marketing fluff will matter. Likely “the Pfizer vaccine” is a term heard, around the world, more frequently than the name of any other pharmaceutical product prior to its FDA approval.  As we have often discussed, habits are strong forces, and I scratch my head wondering whether anyone will take the time to learn the new “brand name,” and to substitute it for the terminology now entered on hundreds of millions of vaccination cards. Will the result be clarification or confusion?

Bottom Line. While I see why Pfizer felt the need to promote this name, I wonder how many times someone will say “Comirnaty,” get a quizzical look from a listener, and respond, “You know! The Pfizer vaccine!!!” 

Will Pfizer spend a lot of money to drive the new name home? Will it matter? It will be interesting to watch and see!!!

Did You Forget Something???

Check this out. What you will see is a “pull through” strategy being employed by Biogen to increase the sales of its Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm. Take an unvalidated quiz to see if your concerns about having Alzheimer’s are, well, valid. Whatever your score, the online quiz is programmed to tell you to speak with your physician about cognitive screening. OR. You can enter your zip code and be turfed to a specialist who can do fun things like a spinal tap to determine if you have a buildup of amyloid plaque. 

Bottom Line. Pull throughs like this are not new to the pharmaceutical industry. Raising physician consciousness of an underdiagnosed disease is probably a good thing in most cases. Ditto raising patient consciousness through DTC. BUT. How about here?

My two cents worth is that using an unvalidated quiz to get patients to believe that even the most casual forgetting is Alzheimer’s is iffy. Throw in the optics of trying to get new patients to take a drug that maybe works and maybe doesn’t, but in any event costs the health care system over $50,000 per year per patient, and Biogen has certainly given muck raking journalists something to feast on! 

Keeping Weight Loss Supplements Out of the Hands of America’s Youth

In my previous post, I talked about the bad habits that were brought to us courtesy of COVID-19. But check this out. Yet another healthcare issue being brought to light by the pandemic. 

Here’s the story in a nutshell.  During the pandemic, kids were among the people that we talked about in the previous post who are overeating and, surprise, gaining weight. Big time. Doctors report that hospitalizations for eating disorders skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic. 

And out on the street, kids were increasingly scrambling to find “appetite suppressants” that would permit them to regain the self-control that they had lost when they went into “lock down” and no longer had to face their friends.

The plot thickens. These products, like “supplements” in general, are unregulated, and many contain hazardous ingredients. Danger for kids and adults alike, but kids are more vulnerable and have more advertisements for these products directed specifically at them. 

Bottom Line. So here we see society putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging artery. Rather than bring such products under Federal regulatory scrutiny and control, thus protecting adults and adolescents alike, three States are trying to keep these products out of the hands of young customers by restricting the marketing and sales of such products to them. You read that right…Three States!!! AND. Is it not likely that the local nature of these actions will simply drive the supplement market to the Internet? 

Aw c’mon. We can do better! 

Anyone Out There Not See This One Coming???

Check this out. What you will see are recent Harris Poll results indicating that the pharmaceutical industry’s image seems to have its “halo slipping.” More quantitatively, we see that positive ratings have slid from 62% positive several months ago to 56% now. And what might that mean? Maybe lots of things, or maybe nothing!

In the “nothing” category, it should be noted that while across the year we see a gradual trend downward, the majority rating is still one of positivity. The bottom is not falling out. 

Relatedly, the statisticians among our readers may interpret this as nothing more or less than a “regression toward the mean.” Translated, that means that the perception of pharmaceutical companies jumped up significantly, as we have previously discussed, when the rapid development of effective COVID-19 vaccines made us heroes.  Maybe the blush is just coming off that rose a little bit. 

On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies are once again being excoriated in the news. The introduction of an Alzheimer’s drug that may or may not work, and costs over $50,000 a year per patient, doesn’t help. And then the indications for using that drug getting “walked back” by the manufacturer makes matters worse.  AND. The fact that the FDA is now calling for an investigation of their own doctors involved in the approval process for this drug is likely to crank our rating down yet another few notches in the eyes of the public.

Bottom Line. We said several months ago that the pharmaceutical industry had an opportunity to build on the fleeting vaccine positivity and establish a pathway to a more permanent positive public image. 

Nonetheless, here we are!

Fewer Physician Visits By PSRs Post-Pandemic?

As you will see in these survey results from FirstWord, that is the desired scenario for about half of the 100 doctors they polled. Throughout the six months of reporting on the results of my On Doctors’ MindsSM conversations, that about lines up with what I have been finding. As we predicted back in November of 2020, many doctors are looking forward hopefully for a return of the “old normal.” BUT. About half of all physicians we have talked to, and especially many specialists, have learned over the course of the pandemic to “do without” PSRs, readily getting  the answers and information they need in their practices from other sources. 

While you are looking at these results, check out the data concerning virtual details. Here, 57% of doctors reported that they find them to be equally or more “effective” than personal PSR visits. BUT. In my conversations with physicians, the majority of doctors are avoiding these virtual visits like the plague (Sorry!) due to difficulties in scheduling and the extra time required. Translated, perhaps the virtual details that are happening are “effective,” but most of my discussants, and I believe most physicians more generally, are not letting them happen.

Bottom Line. Throughout our study of the effects of the pandemic on office-based physicians, we have been telling our pharmaceutical clients that they had best be prepared to increase their physician micromarketing sophistication as the pandemic winds down. Doctors are differing widely in their preferred mode of communicating with pharmaceutical companies. One size definitely doesn’t fit all here, and we need to be ready to respond to these differing physician preferences. 

Marketing To “Caregivers”

This piece is lengthy, but worth it. Check it out.  What you will see is an article that deals thoughtfully with the issue of how to market pharmaceutical products to “caregivers.” First, the marketer needs to recognize the importance of determining the medical conditions for which caregiver marketing is relevant to engendering treatment selection and adherence encouragement.  

Next, it is essential to recognize that, contrary to popular belief, a message designed for patients might well not be ideal for reaching caregivers. Good caregiver marketing programs, the article explains, provide the kind of informational and emotional “support” that caregivers need in specific situations.

Three case studies are provided that walk the reader through these various steps.

Bottom Line. For many medical conditions and for many drugs, a marketing campaign that leaves out carefully developed caregiver support communications is leaving out a major piece of the puzzle.  

Think about it!

The Uncertain Future Of Medical Meetings

Check this out. What you will see is a very thought-provoking article concerning the future of medical meetings. Interesting stuff. Like many activities pre-pandemic, physicians historically dealt with medical meetings primarily out of habit. Those that attended them did so routinely. Same conferences every year. Not a lot of decision making involved. Those who stayed away also did so out of habit.

But along comes the pandemic, and medical meetings ground to a halt, likely for a total period of two years. So, here’s the question. When the all clear is sounded and medical meetings start up again, will anybody go?

This article makes a good point. Medical meetings are sort of an anachronism. In the good old days, it was important for doctors to show up in “The Grand Ballroom” to find out the year’s most important developments in their specialty. But now is different. Developments happen daily, not annually, and digital media ensure rapid dissemination of the latest and greatest.

Bottom Line. My conversations with physicians for my On Doctors’ MindsSM project has revealed that physician reconsideration of previously habitual behavior has been a major result of the pandemic. Doctors used to see Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives out of habit. Now they question whether this is worthwhile. Office based doctors used to avoid getting involved in telemedicine out of habit. The pandemic forced them to reconsider this decision. And then there is attendance at medical meetings…

SO. What will the “New Normal” actually look like???

Make Lemonade! Or Maybe Even Lemoncello!!!

Check this out. You know the old expression. If life gives you lemons…

Watch the short video and you might join me in an ah-hah experience related to this old chestnut. Along comes the pandemic, and most U.S. restaurants immediately sink into deep trouble. Many don’t survive. The latest recovery package from the Feds earmarked over $22 Billion (Yes, with a B) to help restaurants to get back on their feet. Simply weathering the storm was a stretch objective. 

BUT. Denny’s had a different idea. They decided to make a profit from COVID-19. Not by taking advantage of people during these tough times, but by making creative use of public health measures, delivering food, etc., and reestablishing their brand’s positioning as America’s Diner. Smart move.

Bottom Line. As I continue to roll out my monthly On Doctors’ MindsSM conversations with physicians about their pandemic experiences, I keep encountering a missed opportunity for the nation’s pharmaceutical companies. Physicians were thrown into a tizzy in March and April of 2020. Their patient loads suddenly dropped to zero, they had to hasten into telemedicine, they were concerned for their own health AND they no longer had their good buddies, the Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives, to lean on. Doctor after doctor has told me how “disorganized” our industry has looked to them during the pandemic.  

What a great opportunity for a drug company to step forward and say, “We’re here for you, Doc!” Develop a strategy and tactics that delivers on this promise during the pandemic and you have a friend for life!

Or, you could just do what most drug companies did. Sit back and wait for all of this to be over and soon we can go back to the way things used to be. 


Straight Talk

Check this out.  What you will see is another take on the vaccine effectiveness confusion issue we discussed in the previous post. Here, the Astra-Zeneca Oxford vaccine, marketed in Europe, gets thrown under the same efficacy shortfall bus that yesterday we saw bedevil J&J in the U.S.  

Why? As this article says, “… the two (organizations) bear responsibility for confusing data reports and a general lack of transparency, resulting now in a mishmash of authorizations around the world.”

Nice work. The article further discusses the lack of willingness of the company representatives to provide clear answers to questions that have been posed in an attempt at clarification of the underlying issues.  

Bottom Line. As the title of the article suggests, “straight talk” might be the best way for AZ Oxford, and by implication for J&J, to get out of this morass of confusion.  

It usually is!

When Does 66% Equal 95%???

When Dr. Fauci talks about COVID vaccines, that’s when! We’ve all seen Tony on TV, repeatedly telling listeners to “Get any vaccine you can get when it is your turn to get vaccinated.” But check this out. What you will see is a new challenge for J&J. Developing a working vaccine was tough. Getting people to accept their vaccine is constituting yet another challenge.  

Here’s what is happening. First, you had the J&J vaccine tested in a different time frame and different geographic areas than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That means it might well have been encountering different, more infectious variants, thus accounting for its lower efficacy.  

Then, you have the natural tendency, as described by Behavioral Economists, for people to try to simplify information on which they are basing decisions. Thus, a vaccine that is efficacious for 95% of patients is thought of as “working for everybody,” while a product that is 100% effective in preventing death but only 66% effective in preventing disease is thought of as “sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”  

Bottom Line. Perhaps the biggest problem here has been the history of confusion and misinformation that has permeated the entire COVID-19 pandemic. People trying to sort out he specifics of vaccine effectiveness face a significant statistical challenge, and Fauci vouching that we “now have three effective vaccines” simply adds to the confusion.  

SO. J&J’s communication challenge here might well be almost as daunting as developing the vaccine to begin with!