Trust or not trust pharmaceuticals — is there a place for branded marketing?

To paraphrase Hamlet — to trust or not trust pharmaceuticals, that is the question.

A recent study shows that use of pharmaceutical branded websites are on the rise, based on web activity from January 2010 to January 2011 as measured by comScore and as illustrated below:

Moreover, comScore “found that visitation to a branded website generated the greatest positive lifts in conversion” — 8.8% for new patient starts and 15.5% for next fills:

This is great news if it’s true — after all, just get the patient to go to the pharmaceutical website and they’ll either fill their new prescription or refill their prescription. However, perhaps those who were going to fill or refill anyway went to the branded website?

According to a recent Harris Interactive survey, pharmaceuticals are at the bottom of the list of industries people believe are “honest and trustworthy”.  Pharmaceuticals find themselves in the company of oil, health insurers and tobacco and, unfortunately, that’s not the kind of company most would want to keep:

… oil, pharmaceutical, health insurance and tobacco industries top the list of industries that people believe should be more regulated. These industries, as well as the telecommunications and automobile industries, are the least likely to be thought of as honest and trustworthy [emphasis added].

So, here’s the question — is there a place for branded pharmaceutical websites or should pharmaceutical brand managers really be looking for alternatives — say, non-biased third parties who really believe in the drug to “endorse” their product?

In short, do we need a better way? Would love to hear your thoughts!

6 Responses to “Trust or not trust pharmaceuticals — is there a place for branded marketing?”
  1. thenerdynurse says:

    tough question.

    A rise in interest in health is nice to hear. But when the information is likely bias, how helpful is that really?

    It’s interesting to think that pharmaceuticals are least likely to be thought of a honest and trustworthy, and nurses are most often thought of as such, especially considering we’re often ones slinging those drugs at people.

  2. Nick says:

    You misinterpreted the comScore data, which does not say that “use of pharmaceutical branded websites are on the rise.” It just says that health websites are on the rise.

  3. braillon says:

    Part 1
    Public Citizen has just made the diagnosis: “While the defense industry used to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government under the False Claims Act (FCA), a law enacted in 1863 to prevent military contractor fraud, the pharmaceutical industry has greatly overtaken the defense industry.” Settlements for criminal and civil monetary penalties reached a total of $20 billion in penalties during the 1991-2010 interval, 3 out of 4 of the settlements and penalties have occurred in the 2006-2010 interval.
    See: Almashat, S., Preston, C., Waterman, T., Wolfe, S. and Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. (2010) Rapidly increasing criminal and civil monetary penalties against the pharmaceutical industry: 1991 to 2010. 16 December,

  4. braillon says:

    Part 2
    Krumholz et al reviewed court documents of the old scandalous promotion of gabapentin which ended up with a $430 million fines and civil damages.(1) A large body of literature evidenced the industry marketing practices to influence prescriber behavior, from research to continuing medical education. Seeding trials is not subordination of science as titled by Alexander.(2) It is an overt fakery which involves many, from Key Opinion Leader (KOL _an euphemism for paid pharma opinion molder_) with the pathological denial of their universities, to the pseudo-naïve prescribers. As for most other similar cases (eg. Keller’s paper on Study 329 of paroxetine) the journals who published STEPS failed to publish retractations as well as universities failed to properly act regarding scientific misconduct of their members.
    However we must look to the present. In 2008, the United States and New Zealand allowed direct to consumer advertising. People demand a medication they have seen advertised on television or on the Internet. The emergence of this new media is a bonanza. Social Customer Relationship Management has replaced seeding. Websites monitored by the industry and forum with faked testimonials from “KOOLs” (key online opinion leaders) are a cheaper and more efficient way to market drug.
    The Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987 is clearly outdated.
    1 Krumholz SD, Egilman DS, Ross JS. Study of Neurontin: Titrate to Effect, Profile of Safety (STEPS) Trial:A Narrative Account of a Gabapentin Seeding Trial. Arch Intern Med 2011;171(12):1100-1107.
    2 Alexander CG. Seeding Trials and the Subordination of Science: Comment on “Study of Neurontin: Titrate to Effect, Profile of Safety (STEPS) Trial”. Arch Intern Med 2011;171(12):1107-8.

    Alain Braillon M.D., Ph.D.
    Senior consultant (tenured at the national exam, score 150/150) sacked for whistleblowing by the French Dept of Health against the vote of more than 70% of the members of the National Statutory Committee. Meanwhile my boss, chairman of the addiction committee at the National academy of medicine, is being sued for libel by the tobacconists’ union.

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