Photo: Bill David Brooks / Flickr You might plausibly argue that ice cream parlors and bobby socks reached a peak back when Elvis was still the king, b
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Healthcare reform is prompting consolidation and leaner pharmaceutical companies and personalized medicine applications are a source of growing interest. But what other trends figure in to the future of the life sciences industry? How about adding healthcare services and competition with big data analysis companies? Those were a couple of the findings from an Industry Healthcheck survey of 1,600 pharmacy professionals by EyeforPharma.
The 971 who responded included managers (39 percent), directors (30 percent), consultants (10 percent), CEOs (9 percent), and sales reps (9 percent). Most of the respondents are in Europe, Asia and the U.S. The majority are in marketing, sales and general management.
Is patient-centric push lip service or reality? Justifiably, there’s a certain amount of cynicism around this issue. Asked if they agreed with the statement, “I believe a focus on patient-centricity is the best route to future profitability,” 80 percent agreed — 30 percent said they strongly agreed. The fact that the majority of the respondents are in sales and marketing underscores that it’s a big talking point, sure. But pharmaceutical companies have seen that to generate greater participation in clinical trials, improving adherence and understanding patients’ needs they need to have more conversations with patients and their advocates and that’s happening.
Christoph Schmidt, the head of global commercial excellence at Actelion Pharmaceuticals, agrees. “Patient centricity as a strategy is also the result of the shift in decision-making power in the more complex and educated stakeholder landscape,” the report notes. But David Laws of Global Partners said there’s a huge disconnect between intent and action.
“I guess pharma’s definition of patient centricity is going to be somewhat different from other stakeholders and this may help explain the perception gap. Pharma is all talk in this area and continues to behave as a product focused industry… Clearly good products are important but on their own they do not produce any income and certainly no profits. Profits come from customers!”
Life science innovation is key to profitability: Asked whether they agreed with the statement “Quality medicines are the best route to future profitability for the company,” 77 percent agreed. The debate over the cost of Gilead’s drug Sovaldi — the first drug to cure Hepatitis C — is a good example of the upside and downside of how innovation is viewed. Everybody seems to want innovation, but if the price is too high, there’s a lot of grousing, particularly from payers and patients. It’s understandable but in cases where it’s a question of costs down the road and more immediate costs, it should be a no-brainer. Still, reimbursement isn’t the only challenge to innovation. More than half of respondents (56 percent) view the success of new medicines as hampered by an outdated regulatory system rather than an ability to innovate.
Pierre Morgon, CMO at Cegedim, said the pharmaceutical industry will need to change to adjust to these cost concerns.
“Going forward, the industry will have to take a different stance on affordability of novel therapies as perceived by the payers and the net consequence for the shareholders will be to admit that the story becomes ‘profitability, but not at any cost,’ almost as an integral component of the company’s CSR policy.”
Healthcare services will be part of pharma strategy: About 73 percent of respondents agreed that they need to become genuine healthcare providers and offer healthcare services. Still, there are a lot of challenges ahead for companies to move “beyond the pill.” Although Pfizer’s Integrated Health division only lasted a couple of years, Christian Isler, the former global head of solution and product development for Pfizer Integrated Health, learned a good few lessons from the experience. It will take years before it’s profitable. He recommends setting up a separate legal entity. It also will require a change in culture — more listening and responding to customer needs.
The competitive landscape will shift in the future: It seems like a weird statement but 59 percent believe that pharma’s greatest competition will be from companies other than current pharmaceutical manufacturers in 20 years. So who will that competition be? Big data analytics companies seem to be the biggest suspect. I tend to see them as complementing pharma, but others view that dynamic differently, as Morgon suggests. ”
When it comes to discovering new medicines, the ‘competition’ will likely remain within the space that we know today, involving academia, start-up companies and larger ones. But there will be other players, specializing in the mining of the huge amount of data allowing to better profile responders to a given treatment. These new players will play a critical role in the generation of insights and the subsequent discussion on the value of the medical interventions.
The life science industry as we know it today will therefore need to learn how to partner with these new players, if it wants to retain a seat at the table of the decision makers about the real life, and not be “cornered” in the world of the laboratory and the randomized clinical trials.”
Cyndy Nayer, the founder and CEO of the Center of Health Engagement, an agency promoting strategic investments in health value for employers, health plans and provider organizations. She has been called the ‘voice of value-based designs’ and selected by EY as a national thought leader in health care innovation.
Hopefully, the collaboration will help illuminate the fundamental basis of what's driving disease, says Lisa Olson, vice president of immunology research at AbbVie Bioresearch Center, Inc., one of the industry partners. Asked if she had seen a partnership similar to this one before, she said simply, "No."
Yet there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between pharma and many of the innovations that are emerging. Perhaps it’s the very nature of these innovations that conflicts with the conservative pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps it’s still a period of ‘watchful waiting’. Or even, it could be yesterday’s brand managers, sales reps and administrators who, while caressing the piles of pills that define an industry, are just missing what many define as the next revolution since the personal computer.
Whatever the case, there are many compelling reasons for pharma to embrace digital health. If not for today, certainly in the not so distant future.
The future of medical practice and pharmaceutical selling
The pressures on the practice of medicine are numerous. From healthcare reform to the tsunami of clinical information and data, today’s providers are looking for ways to care and to cope. Technology is an essential part of the solution. And digital health is a central part of this equation. The touch points for pharma are numerous and represent areas for engagement and support. On demand information and analytics will shift the focus from bed side ‘rote memorization’ to “augmented digital expression” where a differential diagnosis and interventions come with the aid of a hand-held computer screen. Further, the looming role of the electronic medical record will also set into motion a transformation from paper to electrons will catalyze the digital health movement and accelerate adoption. Many of these changes are happening now as a new generation of medical students begin to use their smart phones at bedside as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool with the same zeal as yesterday’s physicians who clung to their stethoscopes as validation of their clinical acumen.
The traditional role of the sales rep must also change. The consultative nature of the brand detail will shift in parallel with the technology-driven changes in practice. Pressing the flesh will transform to clinking a link and clinicians will adopt the conventions of today’s consumers and seek information in a controlled on-line setting. But perhaps more importantly, the days of typical case studies and efficacy charts will be replaced with a richer and more compelling presentation that are consistent with what this ‘techno’ generational will simply expect. And the experts themselves will change too–the standard practice of expert professorial engagement and peer to peer influence may be enhanced by none other than IBM IBM -1.1%‘s Watson and other ‘electronic’ thought-leaders.
Patients and caregivers will play an important role in the evolution of healthcare and digital health. The emergence of “citizen scientists” who are empowered by increasingly focused and filtered information will act–alone and with like-minded people–to take greater control of care. Self-advocacy will change ‘population-based’ treatment guidelines to more personalized care. And the pandering “ask your doctor” headlines of DTC advertisements will shift to data-based claims that empower the patient and make a much stronger and direct link between the pharmaceutical industry and the true end-user, not the physician.
Maybe it’s digital narcolepsy?
Whatever the cause, pharma needs to take notice. The cases studies and talking points that drive a traditional brand detail must be rethought and redefined in the context of tomorrow’s clinical reality. A reality that’s actually happening today.
Last December at the FDA-CMS Summit, Douglas C. Throckmorton, MD, Deputy Director for Regulatory Programs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) said, “This is a transformational time in the healthcare system. Expectations, resources, and challenges all changing,” but he forgot to mention social media for pharma companies.
He pointed out that “today many more treatments are available, but patterns of manufacturing, use and access to information have shifted dramatically. Patients and clinicians want:New products sooner that are safer and more effectiveDeliver on the promise of basic science discoveriesIncreased involvement in processAccurate and understandable information sooner, especially in post-marketing”
Who could argue with that? And just a few of the key priorities for 2013 would include:Focus on Patient Participation in Drug Development ProcessPatient Participation in Medical Product DiscussionsPatient-Focused Drug DevelopmentMore systematic and expansive approach to obtaining the patient perspective on disease severity or the unmet medical need in a therapeutic area to benefit the drug review process
With all of this focus on the patient, does regulation or corporate social media policy need to change to allow a real dialogue about medicines? Unlike the 2013 Strategic Priorities established for FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), CDER’s strategic plan isn’t so… strategic. The plan doesn’t include any guidance for social media. Industry claims that it is working under antiquated laws and a lack of guidance from the agency. Those claims aren’t off-base, particularly when you consider the only social media guidance the FDA has issued so far has been in the form of warning letters about the use of the Facebook “like” button.
A core group of new technologies at companies such as Abbott, Novartis, Actelion, Novo Nordisk, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, ProPharma, Genentech, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Janssen, Takeda, Vertex, Merck, Sharp & Dohme, Watson, Nektar, Wyeth, Schering-Plough and Xanodyne Pharmaceuticals is expected to grow rapidly for communication and education purposes. Industry expects social networking, podcasts and online video to grow in use as critical tools for communicating disease state and product information
I’m on a panel at ePharma Summit in NYC this week, Social Media for Pharma: A Match Made in Heaven or Hell? moderated by Bob Brooks, Executive Vice President, WEGO Health. Michael Weiss, Crohn’s Health Activist, Tiffany Peterson, Lupus Health Activist, Dee Sparacio, Ovarian Cancer Health Activist, and I will be discussing how advocate groups use social media to communicate and educate their group members.
Marketers are seeing the tools as a way to spread information rapidly and educate through podcasts, video and social networks. They also have found that these mediums prove to hold very effective messaging for those who they communicate to. For Pharma companies to be truly successful today they need to find a way to communicate successfully internally to their market place of physicians and those selling the drugs, but also externally to communicate the effectiveness of those buying the products. What can Pharma learn about interacting with their community online from patient advocacy groups?
An entry in the '100 Steps for Pharma' series Millions of words have been written over recent years across media channels about the relative performance of pharmaceutical companies in social enviro...
Chaturika Jayadewa's insight:
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David Shaywitz writes:
As pharma companies confront the digital health wave and contemplate their digital health strategy, I see four high-level options:
1. Opportunistic adjacency: Leverage healthcare knowledge and regulatory expertise to develop technology in a related but distinct area, ultimately anticipating it evolves into a discrete business unit, analogous to animal health (e.g. Lilly’s Elanco), generics (Novartis subsidiary Sandoz), nutrition, and consumer health.
2. Follow with interest: Determine that digital health, while promising, is still in its earliest days. Just as some pharmas may be relieved they resisted investing in the first round of stem cell technologies, for instance, they might be similarly inclined to adopt a watchful waiting posture, and give the field some time to settle out. Functional areas could utilize specific digital health solutions when they evolve to the point they are available from vendors, similar to the way other solutions are utilized by the industry.
3. Elevate: Set up a dedicated “digital health” division envisioned not as a standalone business unit, but tightly integrated and explicitly intended to support the main pharma business, similar to the way many companies have dedicated “biomarker” divisions, for example. This group could be responsible for monitoring external developments and internalizing and operationalizing the most promising technologies.
4. Planned obsolescence: My personal choice, this approach would set up a dedicated “digital health” group, as in 3, but with the stated mission of catalyzing technology adoption, and with the explicit expectation that it would wind down within a set time (say five years). If successful, awareness of the relevant digital health opportunities and expertise in their appropriate utilization would by that point be located in the individual functional areas.
Via Andrew Spong
If one takes a long view of the history of technological innovation in business, a pattern can be perceived:
An innovation emerges
However, the restless early adopter cohort will long since have moved on to explore the possibilities of more recent innovations,
For them, evolution is not over, and innovation will never cease.
Those innovators within pharma who are forging its digital future are not distracted by the chimerical threat of adverse events, interminable discussions regarding regulations, or the comfortable futility of considering the various merits and disadvantages of this week’s new hardware or social platform.
In order to thrive within healthcare’s global future, pharma innovators understand that companies will need to:
Reform corporate strategies around the principles of social business
Allergan is using image-recognition smartphone app Blippar to bring print adverts for its OTC dry eye treatment Optive Plus to life.
Advertisements run this month in Ophthalmology Times Europe and in Ocular Surgery News will offer an augmented reality experience to readers who have downloaded the Blippar app.
Mark Wilson, marketing director, ocular surface disease, ophthalmology, Allergan, said: “Allergan’s ads reach ophthalmologists in a new and more engaging way, demonstrating how our product actually works, all by hovering a smart phone or tablet over a still image in a journal.
“In this case when the doctor points his phone at the Blippar enabled ad, three buttons appear allowing you to make the choice of immediately watching the mode of action animation, viewing the molecular structure or going straight to the optive.co.uk website and of course reviewing any of the relevant references for our product Optive Plus.”
Allergan was assisted on the campaign by Publicis Life Brands Resolute, who said the technology has “massive and enriching potential in healthcare communications” with potential applications in product packaging and patient information leaflets.
Blippar, which launched in the UK last summer, is the first image-recognition smartphone app to bring augmented reality and instantaneous content to real-world newspapers, magazines, products and posters.
Augmented reality provides a view of a physical environment, augmenting it with computer generated input based on sounds, video, graphics or GPS information.
Digital advertising spending by the US healthcare and pharmaceutical industry will hit $1.58 billion in 2012 and rise to $2.48 billion by 2016. But even as marketers move larger percentages of their budgets online, expiring patents and regulatory challenges will conspire to temper spending growth. “Most pharma marketers see digital marketing’s potential but remain rooted in old ways of doing things. Though adoption is uneven, a paradigm shift is under way as campaigns slowly but steadily migrate online,” said Victoria Petrock, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the new report, “The US Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Industry: Digital Ad Spending Forecast and Key Trends.”
The expiration of patents for blockbuster products will be the biggest industry change that will force new ways of thinking. “Faced with generic competition and fewer blockbusters in pharma pipelines, marketers are ramping up to promote a crop of new, specialized products that treat less-common diseases,” said Petrock. “Rather than turning to one-way, mass-market media to promote brand awareness and maintenance, marketers are experimenting with more interactive, lower-cost and more targeted digital channels.”
In particular, while promotional spending aimed at providers historically has been the largest slice of pharma companies’ marketing pie, it is becoming even more important as physicians turn online and to mobile devices for education and information. A 2011 study by Booz & Company and National Analysts Worldwide found that pharma executives in the US and EU put programs aimed at healthcare providers—as well as unpaid forms of internet promotion—high on their list of planned budget increases. The net effect of these factors will be that digital healthcare and pharma industry ad spending in paid media will grow at a compound annual rate of 14.1% between 2011 and 2016, which is the average rate for US online ad spending as a whole. Over the forecast period, the industry’s investment will remain stable, at about 4% of total US online ad spending.
According to Petrock, “Highly customizable digital formats will help educate and engage smaller target populations.” While search, online video and mobile will help marketers place “particular emphasis on helping key audiences more easily find products and services, educating them with video and reaching them across channels.”
'Mal Bernard' returns to eyeforpharma to question the ethical issues our industry faces as well as to examine what would happen to pharmaceuticals if it faced a recession-style meltdown...
The world faced its greatest challenge in recent history back in 2008; the financial crisis that engulfed world economies saw the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock and others. Confronted with the possibility of a total collapse of our banking system, world governments stepped in, saving the financial industry to the tune of several trillion dollars of tax payers’ money. While the trillion-dollar life raft offered up by Western World Inc. didn’t resolve all of our issues, I shudder to think about what might have happened had that support not been there.
I am not alone in thinking that we simply cannot allow the financial industry to fail, and so we groan under the weight of this bloated industry in the knowledge that if we buckle, life as we know it could end.
Now let me put this to you – what if it happened again? Only this time instead of our financial markets, the companies to collapse were those that provided us with chemotherapy, or insulin, or a number of other lifesaving treatments. What then? We already know that the spiralling cost of drugs is threatening the sustainability of pharma – so what would happen if a major company was on the brink of collapse? Could we cope? Would we prop them up?
The answer to the above question is obvious – we could not afford for even a single major pharma company to fall. Despite the negative press and the public’s somewhat misguided perception, the pharma industry performs a vital role in our world, and were it to face collapse it would literally be a life or death situation.
Of course, I’m not saying we’re on the brink of collapse – not even close, at all. However for all our talk about sales force effectiveness, e-detailing, KAMs, has anyone ever discussed the worst case scenario? Let’s look at this and ask, hypothetically, what would happen if pharma failed?
Looking back in history there were plagues that wiped out entire generations. Today you switch on the news and here about pandemics, swine flu, avian flu, this pandemic and that pandemic. If it ever came to the worst, our defence against that potential tsunami is pharma. We cannot do without pharma; it is intrinsically linked with who we are.
This brings us to another question. There is an ethical dilemma which is more critical within pharma than it is in other sectors, and it is this:
“If we cannot afford for pharma to fail, and if the industry is aware of this, does it have a moral obligation to conduct itself responsibly?”
Or, to put it another way, can we afford for them to be as reckless as our financial institutions have been in recent years?
At the end of the day, for all of the miraculous and life-saving solutions the industry can give us, they are in the business of making money. And without that money, they won’t produce the life-saving drugs we need.
Let’s be clear here, there’s a reason that pharmaceutical products are called “drugs”, there is a dependency on pharma products like no other. If Coca-Cola went bust tomorrow, we might miss it, but we’ll live without it. If Apple went down, we might not get our shiny new toys, but we’ll live. But if Roche, GSK or Janssen went tits-up?
In studies which have previously ranked pharma’s reputation, it frequently finds itself sharing a space next to the energy companies. The reasons are rarely out of the public eye but ultimately, it's an issue of dependency. When the public are dependent on your product you have to work hard to demonstrate you're not taking advantage of your position.
I’m not looking at our industry through rose-tinted glasses (have you ever known me to do that?). We’re far from perfect. As pipelines and margins continue to dry up, the industry is starting to panic. And staff retreat to what they know. So, despite the need for change, it comes slowly, if it comes at all. So big are these companies that they’re tripping over their own red tape. No one is enacting the required changes quick enough and I imagine some never will.
A few months ago, eyeforpharma hosted a dinner in London with some of the industry’s most interesting minds. After being asked what one single change he’d like to see, Dr Leandro Herrero (CEO of the Chalfont Project) responded: “I’d like to try to see if I could create a Lehman Brothers situation”. You can see him say this here. The point is, it would take a collapse on that scale to bring about any real change.
Here’s another question for you – are we even in a position to save the industry if we had to? Could we afford it? As mentioned in the opening paragraph, after realising that bailing out banks wasn’t good enough, we had to move onto entire countries. And we still have several nations on the sick list. Before you know it every major government will be maxing their credit cards to save struggling EU countries. So if it ever happened I ask you, where would the money come from to bail out another struggling industry? Do we have the resources to cover a pharma collapse?
The point to all of this is that yes, pharma is too big to be allowed to fail. But pharma as an industry knows this. Two phrases come to mind – “knowledge is power” and “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Meanwhile, all we can do is speculate. Until the “powers that be” see that a fundamental shift in our industry is needed, we’ll continue to ask the same questions, continue to receive the same answers, and continue to procrastinate and do nothing. Surely that's just as irresponsible isn't it?
The medical app market is dominated by the big players, since they have the resources to create the best apps and the financial muscle to push their products in the market.
The lion’s share of the medical apps market is occupied by established companies with historically strong brands. Bayer leads the pack with 11.2% market share, followed closely by Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, and Boehringer Ingelheim
Via Andrew Spong
A young woman sits stunned in an oncologist’s office, unsure of where to look or how to react to the terrible news. The doctor is telling her that she has cancer – meaning the woman is no longer the same person she was when she walked into the office, as for now she has become a ‘patient’.
And as a patient, she will have to make all sorts of life-changing – and possibly life-saving – decisions in the coming weeks and months. The news is a blow, but the doctor has many other people to see, and only has time to give a brief overview of her diagnosis and the basics about what to expect.
Our typical patient’s life has now changed irrevocably, but she feels unequipped to deal with whatever may lay ahead. Twenty years’ ago, this scenario would have been left right there. The patient would have been expected to cope largely on her own, occasionally being told by doctors and consultants what procedures she would have and what drugs she would take.
But there has been a quiet revolution in recent years – a shift which is restructuring healthcare across the world. This revolution has come from digital. There is always a danger of over-romanticising digital. Etymologically the word comes from the Latin digitus, meaning fingers or toes – thus to be ‘digital’ simply means to use one’s digits when performing an action.
But of course it now means so much more than that. ‘Digital’ now incorporates much deeper connotations of engagement, networking and commercial opportunity. Today, our patient can face her disease in new ways: by writing blogs about her progress for instance, or engaging with an entire community of patients going through similar treatments. This can help her to predict what could happen further down the road, or even help her through the difficult first few weeks following diagnosis.
She can also do some research online to find out what treatments are available beyond what her doctors are advising, giving her the confidence to seek out different options, or even find new clinical trials that could benefit her. The young woman has gone beyond being a patient and become an ‘ePatient’ – an evolution of sorts, and increasingly the norm as people further their engagement with online information.
The rise of the ePatient
For pharma, this represents a major new opportunity to not only promote new medicines via social media and disease awareness campaigns, but also to come out of the shadows, to become more transparent and – for the first time – engage with patients on a one-to-one basis.
Digital is now becoming the tool of choice for many pharma marketers, where the line between traditional marketing and digital marketing is so blurred, the two have essentially amalgamated. Increasingly, if you want to deliver a message – especially to patients – you have to go online.
But the pharma industry as a whole has not embraced any form of digital revolution as readily as other sectors. There are many reasons for this, with legal restrictions being chief among them, especially in the European Union, where rules forbid pharma from discussing its products directly with the public. This limits just how much – and what – it can say to patients.
But whilst the industry may not have taken on digital wholeheartedly, some individual firms, and individuals within those firms, have taken up the challenge of finding a way through the legal quagmire. At the beginning of the year, those pharma companies willing to embrace digital came to the fore through an IMS Institute poll of the best pharma firms in social media.
Johnson & Johnson, which also has a large consumer unit, came top by some margin according to the metrics of IMS, followed by a close cluster of other companies: GSK, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Novartis and Boehringer, respectively.
You would expect most of these at the top given their large budgets and digital willingness – although Boehringer, which almost defines itself via its social media presence, may feel a little disappointed to be sixth on the list.
But whilst lauding the success of the top 10 firms, the IMS Institute was quick to caution that pharma may not be using these new media platforms to the best of their ability, and will need to invest more to engage with younger, digital-savvy consumers.
And this is a problem. The young cancer patient can benefit from digital, but a fundamental demographic difficulty remains: the majority of people who require prescription medicines are over 50 – with many larger groups in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Patients in these age brackets use social media far less than their younger peers and are therefore largely ignored by pharma’s foray into social media.
However, recent reports suggest the tide may be slowly turning. Specifically, an annual survey by a UK governmental communications group says that the emergence of tablet computers is behind a swift rise in people aged 65 and over using the internet.
Drawn up by the UK government’s Office of Communication (Ofcom), this report indicates that, in the past 12 months, the percentage of older people going online rose by more than a quarter to 42%, which could fuel more interest in health-based media. Despite this increase, however, the oldest group of people still spend the least amount of time online of any adult age group.
According to Ofcom’s report, the over-65s spend nine hours and 12 minutes online every week on average. By contrast, those aged between 16 and 24 devote about 24 hours each week to online activities. In healthcare terms, this means that younger, chronic patients may well be the greater beneficiaries of digital campaigns.
The same study found that half of the apps people download are redundant because they are used so infrequently. On average, the survey says, smartphone users have 23 apps installed – but make regular use of only 10.
This is a major problem for developers, especially pharma and health app creators, who require regulator engagement with users for their programmes to work successfully. Finding a way to engage with older patients – and holding the attention of the younger ones – remains a key challenge for pharma if it wants to nurture any digital revolution.
Pharma’s foray into digital
But just what has the industry done to engage with the ePatient? Pharma has traditionally been publicity-shy, hoping instead for its products to be better known than its producers. As mentioned before, there are good reasons for this as they cannot be seen to promote prescription drugs on these platforms, and have to be very careful not to cross any legal parameters when talking to users.
But this has not stopped the industry using social media, notably Twitter and Facebook, in order to (legally) engage the general public. So how do pharma companies use these new channels? Many use Twitter to publish links to press releases, which are primarily of use for journalists.
Some tweet about events they are running/sponsoring. Others attempt to increase their public reputation by announcing plans to increase access to medicines abroad, or other seemingly philanthropic gestures.
There appears to be less engagement on Twitter – visibly less anyway, as interactions and direct messages cannot always be seen. Most companies do enjoy a fairly large following, however. GSK’s main Twitter account has nearly 50,000 followers, Boehringer has 32,000, Sanofi 40,000, and top dog Pfizer is closing in on the 100,000 mark. (This seems to reflect global size: Pfizer is the world’s biggest pharma firm by revenue, so it’s no surprise it has the most followers.)
The majority of these firms follow very few people in return – typically just a few thousand or even a few hundred. These are predominately news services and other medical charities and groups. But pharma’s figures are fairly high compared to other industries – BP Oil, for example, has fewer than 2,000 followers, whilst Barclays Bank has only 22,000. This is more impressive given that Sanofi, Boehringer and others are not the household names that BP and Barclays are.
But pharma’s use of Twitter has not always been positive. The first reported case of a tweet landing a company in hot water came in 2011 when Bayer was reprimanded by the PMCPA, which polices the ABPI’s Code of Practice in the UK, after its UK Twitter account promoted a prescription-only drug to the public when it sent two product-related tweets.
These tweets concerned the company’s erectile dysfunction treatment Levitra and its multiple sclerosis spasticity drug Sativex, both of which were published in a way that made them seem promotional. Bayer was hit with a major reprimand from the PMCPA, and fined thousands of pounds.
And last year a European NASDAQ disciplinary committee found virology specialist Medivir guilty of breaching its rules, after data from a clinical trial were posted on Twitter before their formal release. This case, however, was a little more complicated as it was not Medivir who sent the tweet, but rather a participant who took a picture with his smartphone at an event the firm was hosting.
The picture was then published on social media hours before the data was officially made available to the public, thus breaking NASDAQ rules. Much was made of these cases in the press – especially Bayer’s tangle with the PMCPA– but they certainly weren’t earth-shattering enough to warrant rejecting digital in all of its forms.
In Bayer’s case, the tweets were sent mistakenly with perhaps a slight misunderstanding of the lines between information and promotion. And Medivir’s example was again a mistake, rather than intentional – there should have been a direct conversation with attendees that data were embargoed. In reality, neither firm was looking to use these media to advertise.
A bigger problem has stemmed from Facebook, after the social media platform decided in 2011 that firms running corporate profiles can no longer simply delete comments they didn’t like. This means that companies can only retroactively delete comments if they break Facebook’s terms, or are illegal.
Janssen’s award-winning Psoriasis 360 Facebook offering was quick to fall foul of these new rules, and in 2012 the firm said it was ‘forced’ to remove the page – which also had Twitter and YouTube counterparts – after an increasing amount of ‘troublesome comments’ were posted.
Janssen said at the time: “Whenever a post on this page [Psoriasis 360] mentions a specific drug by name, or talks about the efficacy of a particular treatment (or its side effects), we have to ask for it to be changed, or pull it.”
The J&J pharmaceuticals subsidiary went on to say that this was ‘stifling worthwhile discussions’, and constantly removing these posts simply become too onerous for the firm. Psoriasis 360 was seen as one of the shining beacons of what pharma could do with digital, but its removal from Facebook was worrying given that the firm had done nothing wrong – it simply couldn’t keep up with the public’s comments.
This is the reality of becoming more open on the internet – a company that was once immune to direct public criticism can instantly become the target of ‘trolls’, rather than receive helpful feedback from people who are genuinely upset or concerned about a firm or its products.
Pharma may well have to develop a thicker skin and recruit more staff who are used to monitoring web comments. The travails here are certainly ones that pharma must be aware of, but if it wants to succeed in a brave new world risks will have to be taken – and understanding risk is, after all, what the industry is all about.
An argument remains that too much time and effort is being spent on digital communications, when the primary job of pharma should be to concentrate on its research and development. And a large question mark hangs over just what the return on investment (ROI) is for firms who want to grow their presence on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Digital is a major buzzword and becoming all-encompassing at many pharma conferences. This was no more evident than at the recent eyeforpharma offering in Barcelona, where much emphasis was put on the use of digital to aid the industry’s future.
But this focus was at one point sharply put into perspective by a single slide, that showed only 6% of pharma’s entire marketing budget is spent on digital marketing. The question is: just how measureable is this 6% investment? Have more drugs been sold as a result, and is this even the point for pharma’s foray into digital? Can engagement be successfully measured and pitted against the cost of creating a campaign?
These questions are not benign and the lack of answers is what prevents many pharma firms from fully embracing digital. In an interview with Pharmafocus in 2012, during the launch of Syrum – Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook game designed to promote disease awareness campaigns – its creator John Pugh dismissed enquiries about ROI, saying it ‘wasn’t relevant’ to ask that sort of question in relation to a digital operation.
ROI is a key component of digital which is not discussed readily, but remains important to chief financial officers and to the healthcare payers who are ultimately funding pharma. The marketing budget for digital may certainly be small, but it still represents billions of dollars across the industry – and a good prediction of ROI is surely a necessary part of any business plan.
Embracing digital for the right reasons
Ultimately, as is so often the case with pharma, the issue boils down to trust: patients and lawmakers want to know that pharma’s use of digital media – and indeed its interaction with patients – is based on sharing information openly and helping to improve the experience of having a condition, whilst also aiming to deliver better medicines.
It should not be, as some fear, an attempt at ‘back door’ direct-to-consumer advertising or in any way promotional. There is an opportunity here for pharma and medical communication firms to help shape the future of healthcare and chart the course of the ePatient.
Our young cancer patient has now been given a louder voice and a community to engage with – and all at the touch of a button. The patients’ needs must remain the top priority for pharma and doctors, if the promise of digital is to be fully realised
South Korea’s biggest company is investing at least $2 billion in biopharmaceuticals, including the growing segment of biosimilars, which are cheaper versions of brand-name biotechnology drugs that have lost patent protection.
Samsung, with $327 billion annual revenue, aims to become a major force in biotechnology, an industry expected to generate sales of more than $220 billion in five years. With the electronics market reaching saturation, billionaire chairman Lee Kun Hee has been investing in new areas that might shore up growth for the family-controlled company.
Samsung plans to sell its first biosimilar version of Amgen Inc. (AMGN)’s arthritis therapy Enbrel in 2016 in Europe and a version of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)’s Remicade treatment for autoimmune diseases in 2017, according to Ko. A separate unit called Samsung Biologics Co. has contracts to manufacture biologic medicines for branded pharmaceutica
Via Andrew Spong
Pfizer has begun using digital drug representatives to market medicines, leaving the decision as to whether they want to see them in doctors’ hands.
It’s an unusual move that creates more of an indirect form of marketing. The firm’s new service it calls ‘Pfizerline’ has its own website with a blurb saying: “Ask Pfizer............, who can give you promotional product information at a time convenient to you. It’s simple. It’s flexible. It’s convenient. Calls can be arranged to suit your busy practice schedule.”
The service offers new ways for primary care doctors to talk to reps and also offers links to product information about branded medicines available in the UK.
There is in addition the ability to book an online meeting room that Pfizer says provides a “rich multi-media interaction where you can see our trained UK-based digital representative, as well as the product presentation they are discussing with you”.
In a nutshell, it means UK doctors can speak to reps via a Skype-like device about new products from Pfizer. Doctors can book online via a booking form and a ‘digital rep’ will arrange a time to talk on the phone, or video link at www.askpfizer.com.
The process, dubbed ‘digital detailing’, is designed around promotional product discussions and is within the ABPI rules.
Via Andrew Spong
AstraZeneca’s revitalization strategy, announced this week, follows the same well-worn playbook used by so many in the industry, employing approaches vividly familiar from my consulting days: cut headcount, externalize R&D, focus on select therapeutic areas, push biologics, and explore an interesting flyer (in this case, technology from Moderna, a Cambridge, MA-based company developing novel mRNA therapeutics — see Luke Timmerman’s recent Xconomy post).
While not offering profound solutions, these restructuring activities, through cost cutting and distraction, are likely to buy AZ at least a little bit of breathing room from the increasingly critical analysts that have massed at the company’s gates.
I’d like to review what may be driving these changes in the industry, and conclude with several alternative strategies big pharma might consider.
Read the full article at Forbes by clicking the title
Biopharmaceutical companies are touting their huge investment in R&D, which has filled the drug pipeline with more potential first-in-class medicines, including orphan drugs, personalized medicines and new therapies based on novel scientific strategies. A report by the Analysis Group for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) documents more than 5,000 new medicines in the pipeline globally, many for untreated diseases and life-threatening conditions. The promise is that this more robust pipeline will lead to more new critical therapies for patients.
Yet, the data also reveals that most of these therapies are in early stages of development: less than 1000 of the 5400 products in clinical development have reached stage III, and only 82 are headed for market following approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The attrition from phase II to phase III remains very high despite a range of scientific advances and regulatory improvements. Of nearly 3000 new molecular entities (NMEs) to treat cancer, only 288 have reached stage III clinical trials, and only a handful make it to market. Therapies for infectious diseases seem to have a higher success rate, with about 700 investigational projects yielding 22 recent approvals. Certainly a higher “early kill” rate may be a sign of progress in the risky world of pharma R&D, where a key goal is to avoid costly phase III studies that won’t pass muster with FDA. The current study doesn’t provide the historical data that could tell more about whether pharma R&D is becoming more productive, but there doesn’t seem to much evidence of progress.
A more telling sign is the recent rise in FDA’s approval numbers for NMEs, reaching almost 40 in 2012 and still providing steady good news for sponsors. The promise is that more INDs eventually will yield more new approved medicines. “There are no guarantees” from a stronger and more diverse pipeline, but the study reveals the “depth of possibilities,” observed Genia Long of the Analysis Group in a PhRMA webinar. However, it also is important for pharma to reduce the overall cost of developing new drugs, and that will require more informative early stage research strategies that efficiently separate potential winners from likely losers. Researchers are making progress in developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, pointed out Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, acknowledging that success “will require longer, more expensive studies to show benefit for patients.”
The PhRMA report aims to demonstrate to the public and policymakers the high value of biopharmaceutical R&D and the importance of continuing government support for FDA programs and research funded by the National Institutes of Health. It also highlights the value – and the need to pay for – new therapies to treat rare diseases and conditions that currently lack effective treatment. Ultimately, these new, costly research endeavors could lead to cures and preventives for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other devastating illnesses that affect millions. But the costs for individual patients may be enormous, and it remains to be seen if public and private health programs will pay for them.
Via Lionel Reichardt / le Pharmageek
Recorded live in front of an audience of 70 medical communications and pharmaceutical professionals in Oxford by the @Digitally_Sick team of Faisal Ahmed (@sickonthenet), Alex Butler (@Alex__Butler) and Andrew Spong (@andrewspong) at the kind invitation of Peter Llewellyn (@NetworkPharma)
Via Alex Butler, Andrew Spong
Several months after Pfizer failed to recruit patients to its first ever virtual trial, the firm said it was looking to learn from the setback.
The pilot REMOTE trial was looking to recruit 600 patients suffering from overactive bladder disorder, and was asking them to use electronic diaries to record their experiences.
It was designed so that patients could avoid having to travel to clinics during the trial.
It was a first for pharma - as reported by InPharm last year - but the hype succumbed to practical difficulties when no one signed up for the trial.
Writing on Pfizer’s ‘Think Science Now’ blog, Craig Lipset, head of clinical innovation at Pfizer, said: “This pilot was testing a series of modules needed to enable patients to participate in a […] clinical trial entirely from home.
“Patient recruitment was one of many modules being tested, and the other modules worked very well. In the near-term we are focused on applying these successful modules to studies being planned and executed at Pfizer today.”
He added that the firm would not shy away from using social media and online tools to recruit patients, despite the problems it has had, and would re-launch REMOTE in 2013.
Lipset said: “I also want to clarify that this project does not represent a failure for, or withdrawal from the use of the internet or social media for patient recruitment.
“We routinely use the internet as a channel for recruitment in our studies and will continue to do so wherever it is appropriate. Recruitment strategies tend to be very study-specific, and we will be working to refine such strategies specific to a virtual trial approach.”
But a major problem with this trial, given the condition it targets, is that many patients affected by overactive bladder disorder are elderly, and may not use the internet as regularly as younger patients.
This could have been one reason as to why the REMOTE pilot failed to recruit and will prove to be a systemic problem for all trials targeting diseases that afflict the elderly.
Ben Adams is the reporter for Pharmafocus and InPharm.com and author of the DigiBlog site. He can be contacted via: email or Twitter.
The world has gone social media crazy. The phenomenon has lent a strong culture toward sharing material, gathering useful data and creating greater engagement. People power has become the most democratic way of ensuring videos, articles and photos enjoy optimum visibility. Statistics including the number of views, volume of subscriptions and comments, from the general public, are a huge part of this.
YouTube has become so successful that it has built a webpage to showcase these figures. It is undoubtedly one of the first sites you think of when it comes to locating video content, whether it’s comical, educational or catch-ups that you desire. Additionally, other sites, such as Vimeo, Hulu and Veoh are following closely behind. Some, such as Metacafe.com, are even monetising their sites, whereby, the site pays users for their videos.
It seems that online video footage is valuable stuff as pressure from the public and, indeed the commercial sector, to upload content appears relentless. We can certainly expect fresh, new and exciting changes to evolve in the near future.
One novelty associated with videos is that they do not have to be viewed on their specific platform, but can be embedded onto your home page or as an advertisement on pages which your target audience are likely to visit. This may be the reason why videos are so widely used on the Internet today. Even pharma, who traditionally have a reputation for being conservative and prefer to refrain from following the crowd - because of the nature of their products - have signed up to the viral video concept! Here are a few examples:
Johnson & Johnson are using video content alongside other content on their corporate site. Boehringer Ingelheim, has an oncology site for journalists, named The White Room. The site primarily features video content and downloads, which are extremely popular mediums as previously discussed. The third example features the Life with Lung cancer site which is a new patient site for lung cancer patients outside of the US. It primarily includes video content and interactive tools interactive tools can additionally be found on this site, which help to engage with the audience. Pharma is no longer about uninspiring and dry information! Another progression might include specialised video sites, specifically designed for industries that handle sensitive information. These sectors could hugely benefit, as sites will carry an industry code which will provide direction on uploaded content. Pharma TV fits into this category and presents a site similar to the extremely popular TED talks, but instead will be directed by news and sound bites from leading industry experts.
My post has clearly shown that pharma is increasingly moving toward embracing the culture of social media. There seems to be plenty more room for communication via video platforms and those who dare are slowly invading that space. Healthcare is no longer inaccessible to the general public and pharma brands now have the tools to educate as well as communicate.
Speaking to InPharm, Khanna said: “It’s very early days in pharma’s use of digital and for any heavily regulated industry, I think it is going to become a challenge to figure out how you’re going to actually implement a digital plan.
“So for the pharma industry and also for healthcare providers, there’s going to be a lot of unknowns, and I’m not sure if we have the answers yet about how we can help regulate this space.”
But Khanna added that the use of digital is key for pharma, and agreed that it should be used to engage with patients and doctors.
“I think patients want to be more informed than ever about their healthcare,” he said.
“These digital spaces are venues that patients and other stakeholders use to update themselves on their information, and we have to be in there in the right way to make sure that people that want information can have access to it.
“But just how we regulate it is something that we are going to have to work through.”
Some firms have already fallen foul of the ABPI’s Code of Conduct when communicating online, and are asking for more guidance on using this new medium.
Recent examples include the PMCPA’s criticism of Shire’s Vpriv website after it was found to be making false claims about its drug.
Last year, InPharm revealed that Bayer had published two tweets promoting several prescription medicines, and was found in breach of the Code, leading to questions over the industry’s handle on social media.
In response to these issues the ABPI has recently established a new group to help pharma with its online communications.
The ‘Digital Communications Working Group’ was set up last year, and will have further meetings in 2012 to discuss best practice for pharma and how to work within a tight legal setting.
Wherever you look it seems as if pharma is screaming out for help with its digital communications, but the answer is simple: use common sense.
The problems that keep arising are not ones unique to the digital space and the industry needs to simply understand the legal requirements it works under, regardless of how or where it is communicating.
The example of Shire’s Vpriv site is a case in point - it is not the internet’s fault that Shire uploaded incorrect information, it was the company’s fault.
This may be an individual’s failing or a problem within the firm - but it has not come from Shire being unsure about how to communicate online.
The same goes with Bayer’s tweet - much was made in the press about this being the death knell of pharma’s use of social media, but this is ridiculous.
That was down to an individual error, as pharma companies cannot promote prescription-only medicines to the public in the UK - Twitter was not the problem here, and again the fault lies with the firm.
My advice is that there is no silver bullet for these problems, and they cannot be resolved by having working groups or firms dedicated to teaching pharma how to behave online.
Rather, there should simply be better checks on all information coming out from a firm, regardless of what medium it will be used in.