Category: Pharmaceutical Marketing

COVID-19 Vaccine Revenues and Profits

Check this out. What you will see are some early predictions in terms of how much revenue and profit flow will be generated by a COVID-19 vaccine. $20 Billion in revenue in 2021? $100 Million revenue overall? $40 Billion profit? How much will come from developed countries? How much from developing? Which companies will enjoy what share?

More generally, there are a couple of really fundamental questions to be answered here. First, what will the business model be? For example, how does a company go about setting its profit margin here? Too low and the company misses a major profit opportunity. Too high and the company looks like a greedy scalper.  

Second, what does the marketing effort look like? Here, I believe that there is a significant opportunity for all of the manufacturers in the game (estimated at 6) to join forces to sell the concept of vaccination to consumers. There will be a lot of concerns about vaccines developed at “warp speed” that will need to be overcome, and it would be good to have every company’s shoulder pressed against this wheel, especially if there are booster shots involved.  

And how about specific brand? Marketing giants like Johnson and Johnson will likely be pitted against newbies like Moderna. What do the different pitches sound like, and how does that all work out?

Oh! And how does the marketing of vaccines depend upon what treatments are also available?

Bottom Line. Hopefully we will get to watch all of this unfold sooner rather than later. It should be fascinating, and hopefully a great relief to the world at large!

The Sound of Silence

Check this out.  Spend a couple of minutes and watch the video. What you will see is a fascinating story of Pfizer, sort of accidently, discovering that its arthritis drug appeared also to be effective as a preventative against Alzheimer’s. BUT. After several years of internal discussion, they decided not to publish the data or do the clinical trials necessary to pursue the indication. Why? You be the judge. This report offers up two diverse reasons. One, the “science” of the data, obtained by analyzing insurance claims, wasn’t strong enough. OR. Maybe the drug’s upcoming patent expiry didn’t make further investments in further indications a prudent business decision. 

Bottom Line. Frankly, I find this story a little creepy. How many potentially significant clinical discoveries never get to see the light of day for whatever reason. And, more importantly, what should have been done here that should be done in similar cases in the future?

Think about it!

What Does A Pharmaceutical Marketer Do With “Empathy?”

For that matter, what the heck is “empathy” anyhow?  One of our clients got me thinking about this question when their advertising agency told them they would need to develop physician empathy for patients suffering from a condition that one of their products treats. You see, their marketing research had demonstrated that physicians didn’t think the condition was “so bad,” and felt that patients weren’t really “suffering” enough to require treatment. Is “developing empathy” a marketing strategy? A marketing tactic?”

Anytime I start to think about a new area of endeavor, one of the first things that I do is go to the Amazon book section and see what’s available. If a title or two looks interesting, I download them to my Kindle and dig in. My more frequent readers already know about this modus operandi.  

So once again, off I went to explore empathy.  Here is what I found. Quite a collection of very different books, eh? Guess what. I didn’t download any of them. None looked like it was spot on to answer my l questions about applicability to healthcare marketing. (Confession. I picked the one pictured above for a graphic because I liked its clean look!)

My second line of defense in exploring a new topic is Wikipedia. There, I actually found some useful information about empathy. For example, I found out that some psychologists divide empathy into:

  • Cognitive Empathy. Logically understanding how someone else feels.
  • Emotional Empathy. Actually feeling what someone else feels, vicariously.
  • Compassionate Empathy. Feeling compelled to help someone if help is required.  


Bottom Line. Although I am just starting to focus on empathy’s role in pharmaceutical marketing, I think I get it. For pharmaceutical marketers, developing physician empathy for patients does not involve getting them all sobby from empathizing with their patients’ travails. It does involve making sure that they understand the nature of their patients’ sufferings and how bothersome they are to the patients, and most importantly making  them want to help the patients in a “treatment area” that they otherwise might have ignored. 

Sharing statistics on symptoms and their severity, sharing testimonials about negative impact on quality of life, etc. are indeed tactics that could help to enhance physician empathy and raise prescribing to a more appropriate level.

Think about it!  

Moral Marketing

Check this out. What you will see is an important new book that goes to a place that I’m betting most of us, certainly including me, haven’t thought much about before. In this work, my old friend Karen Tibbals explores the issue of whether brands should take a position on social issues. One line from her description of the book will help to clarify the point of this book:

“Take Nike for example. They took Colin Kaepernick’s side, and the brand gained consumers in its chosen market. But taking sides is a potential minefield if you don’t do it correctly.”

Yup. When I saw Nike take a major stand with the guy who spearheaded the take-a-knee-during-the-NFL-National Anthem- movement, I was scratching my head as to how that would all turn out. I also wondered how the heck you would conduct a priori marketing research on this that would help to assess the risk of disaster.  

Karen’s background, which includes years of doing pharmaceutical marketing research and a stint at a seminary, provides her with a virtually unique set of credentials relevant to this and similar questions. And providing research and consulting on this area of endeavor is what she is now doing for a living. Fascinating!  

Bottom Line. True confession. I have been trying to get my pharmaceutical clients to take a stand on such issues as physician burnout and suicide for over a year now. Although these issues are of tremendous import to their customer base, nobody has wanted to touch these issues with a ten foot pole. Are they concerned about the “minefields” to which Karen refers?  

And think about it. For which drug classes would taking a stand on a social issue seem appropriate and relevant? AIDS/HIV medications? Contraceptives? Opioids? Psychotropics? Vaccines?  

Should any of these take a “stand” on a social issue, and if so, what?

What To Do When Bad Press Tanks Your Stock

Check this out. What you will see is an article that describes what JNJ is doing to counter the influence of a recent expose’ that argued that not only did the company’s Baby Powder contain asbestos, but that the company had known that to be the case for years. What are they doing to manage the crisis? They are doing what JNJ has been known for doing since the Tylenol poisoning, when the president of McNeil sat on the edge of his desk, looked into the TV camera and announced a total recall of the product directly to the American public. This time, they are again taking an approach that goes directly to consumers. BUT. This time they have a different message. Arguing for science over sensationalism, they are refuting the science behind the points of the article’s attack one by one. Bottom Line. We should watch closely to see how well this approach works. While I understand the JNJ line of reasoning here, I question whether the average citizen will have the interest to take the time to read JNJ’s scientific argument.  As always, stay tuned!

Big Happenings In ED

Cialis Check out this Advertising Age Report. Big doings in the erectile dysfunction space. In typical Ad Age style, the focus of this article is primarily on the revenues that the TV networks are about to lose as Viagara and Cialis seem to be “pulling out” (Sorry!)  of advertising on NFL TV. The reasons for these revenue reductions are more important to us, though. In the Viagara case, it’s the usual. A generic of the drug will soon be available, and that as often happens will sound the death knell for major DTC advertising spends. In the Cialis case, the article reports that pending FDA approval, we may see continued advertising dollars being spent by Lilly supporting a DTC version of the drug which is currently in the works. Bottom Line. Generic availability and DTC availability will likely have major impacts on a marketplace that has been characterized by high priced drugs and little or no insurance coverage. It will be fascinating to see how ED Market V2.0 will differ from the first time around! Place your bets!  


Mylan Opprobrium is not a word I use very often. Actually, how about never! BUT. According to this NYT article, Mylan Pharmaceuticals has evolved into a company that has “thrived by learning to absorb, and then ignore, opprobrium.” Think about that statement for a moment. Let the words sink in. And the meaning. A drug company that, by its own count, provides the drugs for 1 out of every 13 prescriptions filled in the U.S., that eats public scorn for lunch. Think their handling of the EpiPen pricing flap was the only time they thumbed their nose at public opinion? Think again. As this article reveals, the company apparently has a policy of doing what it wants, let the public be damned. AND. They generally get away with it. Among the various misdeeds discussed in this article, one pops out at me as being especially scurrilous. I mean, did Mylan really run a TV commercial that suggested that an allergic child could go to a birthday party and eat nuts galore as long as he had his EpiPen with him to deal with the reaction? Aw, c’mon!!! Bottom Line. I must confess, I had never considered the possibility of building a “successful” business on a foundation of purposeful and total disregard for customers, regulators and the public at large. The only time I recall seeing this done previously was with the Mafia, who I guess made it work OK.  Will Mylan’s culture ever change? What would cause this change? What indeed!!!  

Soap Operas and Disease Awareness

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 2.49.39 PM Just when I thought I had seen everything! Check this out and follow the logic here. It seems that two Oncologists are hot and bothered that a soap opera, General Hospital, has partnered with a Bio-Pharma company to develop a plot line around a rare form of blood cancer. More specifically, the doctors are in a huff because the partnered company, Incyte, manufactures the only drug approved for treatment of the condition, and uses the actress playing the role of the afflicted patient as a “spokesperson.” Bottom Line. So. Is raising the awareness of a rare disease in this case really just clever drug marketing? And if so, so what? Is there really a moral dilemma here, or is this much ado about nothing? Think about it!

California To Flip Physician Gift Switch To “Off”

light switch Yeah, I know. It is 2017, and most of us thought this had all been taken care of a long time ago. But apparently not. Check this out. What you will see here is that legislators in the great State of CA are in the process of trying to crack down on free meals, speaker fees and “gifts” to physicians that in 2014, the most recent year cited, amounted to an estimated $1.4 Billion in California alone.  New York, the second most “gifty” state, was about half that. Frankly, I am amazed that such matters are still an issue. Silly me. I thought that literally decades ago, we were all put on notice that unconscionable freebees for physicians were verboten. Guess not in CA!!! Bottom Line.  As usual, there is a general learning here. Although the copy could use some work, the concept is an easy one. That is, most issues don’t get fully resolved quickly, even when they appear to be done deals. Especially with organizations like PhRMA doing pushback, this issue is apparently not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future. And one more thing! A reminder!!! This article cites data that purportedly demonstrate that free sandwiches cause doctors to prescribe more branded drugs. Based on my years of studying physicians and pharmaceutical representatives in the field, and on common sense, I think that it is at least as likely that PSR’s understandably spend more time with physicians they know write for branded products, and thus are more likely to be providing them with free food and other goodies as a social grace. So, if prescriptions are causing sandwiches rather than sandwiches causing prescriptions, what happens to the argument in support of the pending legislation in CA and in the other states mentioned? What indeed!   

Facebook And Dry Eyes

Facebook 4 Check this out. What you will see is a success story. A story of Social Media, more specifically FB, being used by Allergan to share patient testimonial videos in support of the use of Restasis for dry eye. The brand needed to be refreshed after 13 years on the market, and was facing competition for the first time. Given that, Allergan’s decade plus reliance on one Ophthalmologist, who herself is a Restasis patient, to communicate the product’s whole marketing story through TV commercials needed to be significantly augmented. Data indicate that patient testimonial videos on FB are doing the trick. Bottom Line. This makes sense to me. Like we discussed recently with endometriosis, my impression is that many patients don’t really know if they have clinically dry eyes or not, and listening to patients’ stories can help them not only to recognize the symptoms of the condition, but also the advantages to be gained by treating it. Well done!