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For months and months speculation was rife about the Apple Watch (or iWatch as was the expected moniker) and the possible implications and applications for healthcare. Then we had the 9th March launch event in San Francisco and theApple Watch seemed to sink like a lead balloon in the minds of health technology enthusiasts. This was aided by articles such as the one in the Wall Street Journal that claimed much of the exciting health sensor technology had been scrapped and asked: What Exactly Is an Apple Watch For? (Subscription required)
I believe that technology only becomes socially interesting when it becomes technologically boring. We can only really impact health at scale when we utilise technology that has true mainstream reach. However I feel there are still a number of key reasons the Apple Watch is worth thinking about for healthcare broadly, and pharmaceutical companies specifically. Here are five reasons pharma should care as we approach the April 24th Apple Watch launch date
Via Alex Butler, Bart Collet
It’s a question that comes up all the time in my discussions with senior industry executives – is social media actually worth the risk for a sector as heavily regulated as the pharmaceutical industry?
And while some may roll their eyes and denounce pharma as being backward for asking such a question, I don’t agree – it’s a great question and an extremely valid one. Every business decision has to consider risk versus benefit.
But here’s the problem with measuring that risk-benefit ratio: you need to consider the timeframe. It’s true for every decision ever made, no matter how big or small and it also applies to our personal lives. For example, there is a small but finite risk involved every time you travel in a car, train, boat or plane. If I considered that risk, versus the benefit of travelling to business meetings, over just a 24h timeframe I’d probably never bother (and also be perceived as being a little odd!). But at least some of those meetings will turn into mutually beneficial commercial relationships, so the benefit far outweighs the risk for me when you look at it over the longer-term. In fact, there is a longer-term risk, to my livelihood, from not travelling that is more worrying than the immediate one.
So if you’re just looking at the short-term risk-benefit ratio of anything you’re getting a distorted picture. This is exactly how I challenge people in pharma to look at it when they ask me about risk.
The benefits of social media engagement by pharmaceutical companies are very clear to me and, at a simple level, they are twofold.
Firstly, the relationships formed via social media engagement translate to the offline world. I know this because I’ve seen it happen many times with my business. Many of the healthcare influencers (patients / patient organisation leaders, industry executives, influential healthcare providers, media etc.) who I know on first-name terms initially met me via social media. When access to these people is often a major barrier for pharmaceutical companies the value of social media cannot be ignored.
Secondly, the kind of direct feedback you can receive via social media is fantastically useful – both directly online and, in line with the way it builds ‘real-world’ relationships outlined above, from subsequent offline conversations. In the information age, this kind of input that can only be obtained by being well-connected, can deliver a critical advantage. Social media listening is a start, but engaging delivers a whole new level of intelligence.
So that’s it – access to key customers and unique insights are the two main benefits for pharma using social media, in my view. Both have a major impact on the bottom line success of products.
And the immediate risks of engaging online? Most of them carry even bigger risks from not engaging in the longer-term.
For example, companies worry about picking up adverse events about their products, necessitating subsequent action. Yes – this might well happen, but what if people are having adverse events when using your products and you’re not picking them up? Where does that lead?
Or the notion that by taking part in social media activity, your critics might start to attack you. If you have such vocal critics the reality is they are already attacking you online and, unless you listen, you can’t take the necessary action to remedy it. So by not engaging, the reputational risk to your business – and associated commercial risk – is massive.
I could go on and on, but hopefully you get my point.
Online social engagement is here to stay. It’s only going to get more and more important as a conduit for connectivity and information sharing. So next time someone in pharma asks you if social media is worth the risk, ask them to cast their gaze a bit further down the line to a point when all their competitors are engaging online.
Is not engaging on social media then worth the risk?
When it comes to researching diseases, seniors don't turn to—or trust—pharmaceutical companies very much. If pharma companies want to change this, they'll need seniors' doctors, friends and family members to sing their praises, as recommendations are the top factors that would motivate those 66 and older to visit pharma-sponsored websites.
Via Giuseppe Fattori
Up to 90% of side effects to drugs are not reported, according to some estimates. “Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are grossly under reported by everyone, including healthcare professionals, but particularly so by patients,” says David Lewis, head of global safety at Novartis, who is co-ordinating the involvement of pharmaceutical companies in a €2.3m three-year public-private project called Web-RADR (Recognising Adverse Drug Reactions).
Via Marie Ennis-O'Connor
In case you haven’t heard: Samsung is now a pharmaceutical company, or at least on the point of becoming one. Subsequent to its having invested at least $2b in biopharmaceuticals, the South Korean giant will be bringing a biosimilar version of Amgen’s Enbrel to market in 2016.
In 2016, a company best known for its consumer electronics and heavily invested in mobile health is going to start producing pharmaceuticals, and will apparently begin by bringing a treatment to market which will presumably make it a dominant force overnight in the two disease areas in which Enbrel has indications, namely moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis.
The implications of this for legacy pharmaceutical companies are wide-reaching and significant. Let’s consider a few of them (I anticipate updating this post over the next few months):
- Samsung now has more touch points across the health ecosystem than any other pharmaceutical company. ...
- Samsung’s total focus on customer experience and design makes it a credible champion of the participatory patient’s interests. ...
- Hundreds of millions of people carry this pharmaceutical company’s brand with them day and night. ...
- Consumers will think of Samsung as a consumer electronics company that makes pharmaceuticals. ...
- Samsung will be the first consumer technology company to enter the pharmaceutical marketplace, but it will not be the last.
If this thought doesn’t focus legacy pharmaceutical companies into throwing everything they have into reforming themselves as social business, nothing will. The survival of even the largest companies is far from certain when giants such as Samsung have set their sights upon entering the industry.
Samsung doesn’t think like a pharmaceutical company.
Pharmaceutical companies better start thinking like Samsung.
Via rob halkes, Lionel Reichardt / le Pharmageek
I prepared the chart on the left for the Pharma Marketing News article "DTC Ad Spending Rises from the Grave," which was published this Monday. You should compare this version of the chart to the one I published here on Pharma Marketing Blog last week (here).
Read more here.
Via Pharma Guy
We’ve come a long way since Chelsey Walters, social media manager, reported on the possibility of pharma using Instagram in 2013. More and more, Instagram is becoming a viable social channel for pharma, if used in the right way. So here are five reasons we believe pharmas should take a new look at Instagram.
1. Visual content is still on the rise
2. Facebook reach is falling
The L2 report found that the 250 brands it tracked posted an average of 9.3 times per week on Instagram and 8.8 times on Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2014. Posting frequency on Instagram is up 23% over the last five quarters.
3. New moderation capabilities
As an extra precaution, there are even some apps you can download on iTunes, such asSpotless, which claim to delete unwanted, abusive, promotional or general spam comments on Instagram automatically.
5. Pharma is already testing the waters
According to an article by PM360, “… marketers, consumers and Instagram users, some of whom serve more than one of these roles, at the very least have their own health concerns in common. Opting to use the most effective, current, and trending tools available to reach each other with life-altering and, sometimes, life-saving solutions lets us add value where our audiences are.”
Consumer packaged goods in particular are all over Instagram — their audiences use Instagram, their brands have relevance there and, of course, they aren’t limited by the same regulations as Rx products. Olay, Obagi and CeraVe are a few CPGs effectively engaging in the space.
You might be surprised to learn that even some major pharmaceutical companies have embraced Instagram, including Novartis, Genentech, Bayer HealthCare Animal Health andEli Lilly. Boehringer Ingelheim was the first pharmaceutical company to join Instagram in September 2013, and they currently have 124 posts and 828 followers.
Taking a New Look at Instagram
Now more so than ever, there is an opportunity for pharma to welcome Instagram into their social ecosystem. While healthcare information is typically complex, images have been shown to further increase understanding. In fact, this study found the comprehension rates of medication labels increased from 70% to 95% when text was accompanied with a photo.
Instagram is a single social platform and just one of many, many options for communicating within today’s social sphere and the broader, integrated marketing mix. As always, brands should closely consider their own objectives to determine if Instagram is a strategic fit for their brand goals and audiences. With the popularity of visual content, the fall of Facebook reach, and new capabilities such as moderation and analytics, Instagram just might be right for brands wishing to connect in the visual social sphere.
"To tweet or not to tweet?" is often the question for pharmaceutical and medical device companies when it comes to advertising their products in the burgeoning social media environment.
The very specific rules the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has regarding marketing for drugs and devices makes it difficult to market products on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Counsel representing these companies should be familiar with several interpretive guidance documents the FDA released last year that help explain the agency's thinking as it grapples with emerging and future social media platforms. The issuance of guidance on social media was required by the 2012 "Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" (FDASIA), Section 1121. This required the FDA to, by August 2014, "issue guidance that describes FDA policy regarding the promotion, using the Internet (including social media), of medical products that are regulated by [the FDA]." The FDA complied and issued three sets of guidance related to social media in 2014, with two more still pending. Though these guidance documents are not regulations, they represent the FDA's current thinking and best practice is to follow and comply with them.
One of the guidance documents addresses social media platforms with limited character spacing. The most common example of such a platform is Twitter, which is limited to 140 characters for a single tweet. The FDA guidance says that if an "accurate and balanced" presentation of both risks and benefits is not possible within the constraints of the specific platform, the company should reconsider using that platform. In other words, if a company cannot present both the benefits and the warnings and risks about a product in the space provided, it should not advertise it there.
The FDA rules on labeling govern how a company is allowed to market its product. The agency requires company advertising to meet several requirements: be truthful and non-misleading (FD&C Act 502(a), 201(n)); include certain information, such as the indicated use and risks (21 CFR 201.100(d), 201.105(d), 801.109(d)); be prominently placed on the label; and any advertisement that makes representations about drugs must include certain risk information (502(n), 21 CFR 202.1). Advertising on social media must be presented in a fair and balanced way.
Most of us are familiar with Internet "trolls," those sometimes angry and often misinformed commenters to online articles or blog posts. What happens, however, when someone posts something online about your client's medical device or drug that is false? What if, say, this person posts that the drug is dangerous and caused Side Effect X and killed his elderly mother who had diabetes? What if the company knows the drug does not cause Side Effect X, or the drug was specifically labeled warning people with diabetes to not take it? It is these types of situations where a company may feel the need to say something—so others do not take the drug incorrectly and to protect its brand.
The FDA has issued guidance on this type of situation. The agency understands a company cannot be the sheriff of the Internet and correct, much less know about, each instance of someone saying something wrong about a company's product. Its guidance states a company is not responsible for user-generated content on social media platforms it does not operate or control. This means that if misinformation is generated in a tweet or Facebook post, the company has the option, but not the obligation, to post something and correct the misinformed poster. However, if the post is on the company's page, or in a forum the company hosts, then it is responsible for setting the record straight.
Whether the company is obligated to respond to misinformation or voluntarily chooses to respond, the FDA guidance sets forth the following specific things the company must do when responding.
1. Be relevant and responsive to the misinformation
2. Tailor the message to the misinformation
3. Be non-promotional in nature, tone and presentation
4. Be accurate
5. Be consistent with the FDA-required labeling
6. Be supported by sufficient evidence
7. Post in conjunction with the misinformation in the same area or forum
8. Disclose the person providing corrective information affiliated with the company that makes the product
Legal Implications of Social Media Rules
The FDA guidance leaves open the issue of liability faced by drug and device companies, even if complying with the rules. Specifically, "failure to warn" claims are possible for a company advertising on social media. Even if it complies with the FDA guidance, a company can still face liability over its labeling. If, for example, a company decides to tweet and tries to highlight the use of the drug with its risk, what if it only includes the most significant risk and not others? Will that expose the company to a failure to warn claim?
In addition to product liability, social media advertising raises the issue of competitors having the ability to bring suit under the Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §1525). This law allows a private right of action so a party may sue a competitor for any false or misleading description or representation of fact which
" … in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person's goods, services or commercial activities." Pharmaceutical companies can face Lanham Act liability for many types of claims, including minimizing risks, broadening indications, overstating efficacy and making comparative claims in the absence of supporting head-to-head clinical data.
Via Plus91, Rémy TESTON
Apps are moving much closer to delivering real therapeutic benefit, as I wrote last month on Forbes. But life science venture capital investors of any stripe – financial or corporate -- are reluctant to invest in app developers.
Then, earlier this month, I noticed that a life sciences venture capitalist I know, Simon Meier, a corporate VC from Roche Venture Fund, had just invested in a $4.8 million round raised by mySugr, an Austrian app developer that has produced some popular apps to help both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics manage their disease.
mySugr is a pure direct-to-consumer business that exists to make it easier to live with diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2. As reported on MobiHealthNews, “MySugr[’s]… flagship [app]… Diabetes Logbook … includes logging, graphing, analysis, ‘exciting challenges,’ ‘smile-inducing feedback,’ and Apple AAPL -2.61% Health integration. If users sign up for a month-to-month or annual subscription, pro [premium] features include additional challenges, automatic blood glucose logging from connected devices, reminders, and more report formats. Its Logbook app is registered as a class 1 device with the FDA [U.S. Food & Drug Administration] and has similar status inEurope.”
What a different risk profile this presents compared to a diabetes drug! No decade-long product development. No regulatory risk. No costly clinical trials. And no massive and expensive sales force. Sounds like a VC’s dream. Except for the tradeoff: the app has to reach millions of users and then convince a significant fraction of them to pay for the premium features while staying ahead of all the other diabetes apps in an arena with much lower barriers to entry than a drug would face.
The pharma business model – charging high prices at high margins for products whose development takes a decade or more – is beginning to seem increasingly threatened by lower cost competitors (think generics and biosimilars) and reimbursement challenges (look at the recent scrap over the price of hepatitis C drugs). Making exploratory investments in app companies may represent a way to establish a beachhead in a pharma-lite (if not completely pharma-free) future.
It is unwise to push this thesis too far. Being a participant in a small venture round of less than five million dollars is a far cry from giving up one’s business model. And it was the venture fund, which operates independently from the strategy of the parent company, that made the investment. Still, the same way that Apple has migrated from being “just” a hardware and software company to being a “digital data and online ecosystem” company, early forays like corporate VC investments in the digital world reflect a similar impulse to add a greater consumer focus within the pharma industry.
So watch out. This small step into consumer-friendly apps might evolve into a giant leap into an entirely new business.
Via Pharma Guy
According to findings released today from the Fifth Annual Makovsky/Kelton “Pulse of Online Health” Survey, the percentage of Americans who trust pharma-sponsored social media "a lot" or "completely" increased from 17% in 2014 to 21% in 2015.
Tracking diet/nutrition (47%)Medication reminders (46%)Tracking symptoms (45%), andTracking physical activity (44%)
Similar results were found for uses of wearable devices.
Via Plus91, Anna Niemeyer, Olivier Delannoy
Many pharma companies remain concerned about running afoul of the regulators with their online activities and therefore have not yet fully embraced new channels. However, increasingly patients want and expect them to engage, and those that have are...