How can pharmaceuticals get their drugs in front of doctors?

How indeed? Anytime a pharmaceutical tries to influence doctors it will get “slammed” by the media and by the public (this of course is also true for device manufacturers). Any type of “business” relationship will be frowned upon … unless it’s non-branded.

In a recent study published in Health Marketing Quarterly, “Nonbranded or Branded Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising—Which is More Effective?”, researchers found that non-branded ads compared favorably with conventional ads for specific branded medications.

These researchers found that:

unbranded tactics drive more qualified prospects than branded tactics. The median unbranded tactic generates seven percentage points more qualified prospects than the median branded tactic.

Now, admittedly, this seven point spread that branded has over unbranded is with prospects. Branded campaigns hold a six percent lead over unbranded with existing patients.

However, most market communication efforts target prospects over existing patients; after all, for existing patients, an adherence program is better suited (for more on this, please click here).

Is there a middle ground? A place where the campaign is not promotional (at least by the device manufacturer or pharmaceutical) and, yet, still manages to mention the product?

It was recently reported that UK’s National Health Services (NHS) is attempting to “accelerate adoption of new drugs and technologies.”

According to Sally Chisholm, head of a small group of NHS planners, called the NHS Technology Adoption Centre (NTAC):

Through no fault of their own, many of these people [healthcare professionals] don’t have the necessary experience or skills to understand what is being put in front of them, or to make informed decisions on new technologies.

NTAC is “now starting to come up with structured procedures that can be followed by industry and doctors to speed the adoption of new technologies”, reports In Vivo Blog.

What does this mean? Or, rather, how could this be possible?

Looking at the world through the two choices of branded vs. unbranded is extremely shortsighted. Viewing marketing decisions in that dichotomy limits the market decisions and choices to just those two approaches.

Marketers prefer branded, because getting the name out there is clearly important; but, if doctors and patients prefer unbranded, why do it?

Moreover, an unbranded campaign means that the product name doesn’t get mentioned enough or even at all. Yet, NHS, which “has never been the fastest at adopting new medicines and technologies, wants (through NTAC) the adoption of new technologies.

What marketers often forget or choose to forget is that there are often others (i.e. neither the device manufacturer, pharmaceutical or their paid key opinion leaders), who want to talk about and endorse the product’s use and value in improving health outcomes.

So, here’s the question — is there a middle ground between branded and unbranded? I think so. What do you think?

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