Marketers Take More Targeted Approach To Selling Rx Drugs

by , Apr 17, 2008, 5:00 AM
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doc holding prescription bottleFaced with increased scrutiny and regulation, pharmaceutical companies are looking to shift promotional dollars out of traditional mass media channels and into more targeted methods, according to new research from pharmaceutical consultancy Cegedim Dendrite.

"[Traditional media] was used as an awareness tool," Lynn Day, the company's director of relationship marketing and analytics, tells Marketing Daily. "Now, it has shifted toward educational initiatives and patient targeted and health-care provider programs."

According to the company's latest "DTC Check-Up Survey," nearly two-thirds of pharmaceutical marketers said they expected to spend more in the coming year on more targeted approaches, such as e-mail, Web sites and programs in doctors' offices and pharmacies. The "targeted and measurable" attributes of such programs are very appealing to the pharmaceutical industry, Day says.

Perhaps not surprisingly, respondents were divided over whether DTC advertising is effective. About a third of the respondents--31%--said it has become less effective, while a similar percentage said it has become more effective.

DTC advertising is a controversial subject, as some watchdog groups and doctors are questioning whether prescription drugs are marketed to consumers before they have been tested for safety and effectiveness on a broad population after receiving FDA approval. "By virtue of that fact, the industry is asking some very tough questions about tactics and what is working," Day says.

While the financial and consumer packaged goods industries have long made targeted programs such as email a part of their marketing plans, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to adjust because of regulation, says Day. In addition, many pharma marketers come from the company's sales staff, which is often less familiar with emerging platforms.

"There's been a lot of key learning [recently] from the financial and packaged goods industries about how to market to patients," she says. "They're also learning about expressing the clinical benefits of the products in ways the consumer or health care provider would want to hear."

Accordingly, nearly 30% of respondents in the company's survey said they expected their overall marketing budgets to decrease from last year, compared with 16% in 2007's survey. Some 12% of them said they expected their budgets to decrease by more than 12%.

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