Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Keytruda v. Opdivo Advertising Channels: Which Reigns Supreme? Direct to Physicians or Direct to Patients?

Keytruda v. Opdivo Advertising Channels: Which Reigns Supreme? Direct to Physicians or Direct to Patients? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Merck's Keytruda and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo, for all their similarities, have taken markedly different commercial strategies to selling their immuno-oncology drugs.

 

Merck has spent more than double what Bristol-Myers Squibb has spent on Opdivo to promote Keytruda in professional journals targeting doctors. BMS has chosen a different route, electing to make huge splashes in direct-to-consumer advertising.

 

In the first half of 2016, Keytruda was the thirteenth most advertised brand in professional journals, with Merck doling out more than $2 million to target doctors, according to Kantar Media. During the same time period, Opdivo didn't even break into the top 20 of advertised pharmaceutical brands — Bristol-Myers Squibb spent $863,000 on professional ads for the drug, significantly less than what Merck spent.

 

But that's not to say BMS hasn't promoted Opdivo. The company spent $37 million on DTC ads in the first quarter of 2016 and a total of $125 million advertising the therapy in 2015, while Merck spent only $7.3 million in DTC spending over the same time period. In fact, Bristol-Myers Squibb promoted the drug directly to consumers to such an extent that it came under fire from investors last year.

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Thanks to Cartoon Characters, We Know How Belsomra Works, But It Doesn't Work Well

Thanks to Cartoon Characters, We Know How Belsomra Works, But It Doesn't Work Well | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

One evening in the late summer of 2015, Lisa Schwartz was watching television at her Vermont home when an ad for a sleeping pill called Belsomra appeared on the screen. Schwartz, a longtime professor at Dartmouth Medical College, usually muted commercials, but she watched this one closely: a 90-second spot featuring a young woman and two slightly cute, slightly creepy fuzzy animals in the shape of the words “sleep” and “wake.”

 

Schwartz had a reason to be curious about this particular ad. Two years earlier, she had been a member of the advisory panel that reviewed Belsomra for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—and the process had not gone well for the manufacturer, Merck. The company saw its new drug as a major innovation, emphasizing that the medication acted on an entirely different mechanism within the brain than the previous generation of insomnia medicines like Ambien and Lunesta. During the drug’s development, Merck had suggested that it could treat insomnia more effectively and produce fewer side effects than existing medications. In 2012, one Merck scientist described the science underlying Belsomra as a “sea change.”

 

But when Schwartz and her colleagues scrutinized data from the company’s own large-scale clinical trials, what they found was a lot less impressive. People taking Belsomra fell asleep, on average, only six minutes sooner than people taking a placebo and stayed asleep for a mere 16 minutes longer. Some test subjects experienced worrying side effects, like next-day drowsiness and temporary paralysis upon waking. For a number of people, these effects were so severe that the researchers halted their driving tests, fearing someone would get into an accident. Because of these safety concerns, the FDA ended up approving the drug at a lower starting dosage than the company had requested—a dosage so low that a Merck scientist admitted it was “ineffective.”

 

So when Schwartz saw the Belsomra ad, she was struck by how smoothly it sidestepped the drug’s limitations. A soothing voiceover hypes the science, giving a sophisticated explanation of how Belsomra targets a neurotransmitter called orexin to turn down the brain’s “wake messages.” “Only Belsomra works this way,” the voice continues. The ad ends with the young woman curling up with the “sleep” animal and falling into a peaceful slumber. “You have no idea watching that ad that we’re talking about falling asleep 6 minutes faster and staying that way an extra 16 minutes—and that’s at higher doses,” Schwartz said. “We really don't have a great idea of how well it works at the lower dose FDA actually recommends for people starting the medication.”

 

The first marketing efforts for Belsomra appeared not long after the FDA had approved the medication, in the summer of 2015. Anyone who saw them might not have realized what was being sold, since many didn’t mention Belsomra—or any sleep drug—at all. There was a website, WhySoAwake.com, which focused on sleep science, and a related Twitter feed, which now has more than 60,000 followers. Merck also worked with the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation to develop BeyondTired.org, a site where people with insomnia talk about their experiences. And there was an iPhone app called SleepGuru, which allowed users to monitor their sleep activity. For pharmaceutical companies, the great advantage of such “unbranded” advertising is that, since the ads don’t make claims about specific drugs, they aren’t legally required to talk about side effects, either.

 

Like the fuzzy animal commercial, the unbranded campaign for Belsomra told a compelling story about new developments in the field of sleep research. Older insomnia drugs try to induce sleep by making the brain more receptive to chemical signals that make people drowsy. Over the last two decades, scientists have developed an understanding of a separate set of chemical signals that make people alert. The WhySoAwake site gives a cartoonish version of this story, and a link on one page takes visitors to the Belsomra site, which explains that it is the only drug that acts to quiet the wake signals.

 

In Merck’s last quarterly earnings call for 2015, Adam Schechter, the president for global human health, linked the drug’s sales success directly to these marketing efforts. “With regard to Belsomra, I think we started off with a really good launch and we had nice growth,” he said. “It then flattened a little bit. We ran direct-to-consumer advertising and we saw an increase again in … volume.”

 

I asked Dominick Frosch, a senior scientist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute who has published widely on how patients make decisions, to review the Belsomra television spot with the fuzzy animals. “The ad promotes a very clear story as to what causes insomnia … that somehow insomnia is a problem of your neurotransmitters,” Frosch said. “They are giving you a very one-sided explanation of what causes insomnia, and of course into that cause fits this particular drug.”

 

“We all want consumers … to be highly engaged in their health care, and certain advertisements can do that. But it can also lead to a lot of overtreatment,” said David Grande, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania who has written extensively on drug advertising, “It’s not as if we live in an imaginary world where messages in advertising are being driven by what’s important, rather than what makes more money.”

 

After Belsomra hit the market, Consumer Reports asked Schwartz to create a label for it. Her version presents the data on the drug in an even-handed way, noting that its ability to aid sleep is “modest” at the highest approved doses. “Short track record means that new, unexpected side effects are possible,” it explains. “Since this drug has a different way of acting than other insomnia drugs, the experience with it is particularly limited.” The label gives brief details on alternative remedies for insomnia, like cutting down on caffeine. Finally, it lists Belsomra’s known side effects. Not included on the list but probably warranted: skepticism.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Related: "FDA Approved Untested Dosage of Belsomra, Says Consumer Reports Expert"; http://sco.lt/6xXPRB and "Big Pharma's Animated Ads & Mascots To Get FDA Scrutiny"; http://sco.lt/71ZdwX 

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Survey: What's the Future of DTC Advertising?

Survey: What's the Future of DTC Advertising? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

This survey asks your opinion regarding the future of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising spending, which has surged recently despite the current political climate where DTC drug advertising is being blamed for high drug prices.


But the political climate is not the only factor that may impact DTC spending.

The survey also asks respondents to rate the importance of several factors that influenced their prediction about the future of measured media DTC ad spending.

After completing the survey -- it takes only 5 minutes -- you will be able to see the de-identified results to date.


What's your view?

 

Take the survey here

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DTC Advertising Moratorium Idea Resurrected in Congress

DTC Advertising Moratorium Idea Resurrected in Congress | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
US Rep. Rosa DeLauro has introduced a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on advertising newly approved prescription drugs directly to consumers.


The bill, known as the Responsibility in Drug Advertising Act, would also prohibit ads from running after the three-year moratorium if the Department of Health and Human Services determines the drug generated “significant” side effects based on studies, scientific literature, and other data. It was introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).


The legislation, which is designed to amend the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, is only the latest effort to squelch direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines. Three months ago, the American Medical Association called for an outright ban on this form of promotion (here).


Like the AMA, DeLauro also argued that advertising can inflate health care costs if consumers are prompted to seek newer, higher-priced medicines that drug makers may advertise to quickly trigger sales.

Pharma Guy's insight:

This is not the first time a DTC moratorium was suggested. 

Back in 2008, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific and health policy issues, issued a report recommending a 2-year moratorium on DTC for new drugs. For more on that, read “IOM Report Calls for DTC Moratorium”; http://bit.ly/IOMmoratorium

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Is the Era of DTC Diagnostics, Diagnosis and Drug Development Here?

Is the Era of DTC Diagnostics, Diagnosis and Drug Development Here? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Givi Topchishvili is founder and president of the 9.8 Group.


23andMe, the direct-to-consumer genetic testing and screening service, is back in the business of analyzing some health risks based on personal genetics.


That's probably good news for health-curious and health-conscious customers (or at least those in the US since 23andMe has been offering the service in Canada and Great Britain all along).


23andMe has pioneered a new health service business that could serve as an early working prototype for the entire medical industry over the next few years. Despite conventional wisdom that the 23andMe business breakthrough is the direct-to-consumer model, it's also the consolidation of genetic testing, diagnosis and drug development that has the potential to change the industry.


Pharma Guy's insight:

Before putting all your eggs in this basket, you should know that data from studies that investigate the quality of these DTC genetics tests confirm that they are not informative, have little predictive power, and do not measure genetic risk appropriately. See here: http://sco.lt/4o3AY5 

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NBER Study: DTC Ads Boost Rx Drug Adherence. More or Less Confirms AMA's Argument

NBER Study: DTC Ads Boost Rx Drug Adherence. More or Less Confirms AMA's Argument | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

While measurement in DTC advertising--in all advertising actually--is often difficult, NBER took a unique and targeted approach to assess as exactly as possible the effect of DTC ads. By using the introduction of Medicare Part D in isolated geographic areas and concentrating on 5 drugs for chronic conditions, researchers believe they were able to isolate and determine the specific effects of DTC on prescription drug use and adherence.


They found that a 10% increase in DTC ad viewing led to a 5.4% increase in the total number of prescriptions filled for the advertised drugs. That same 10% spike in viewing resulted in an increase in drug adherence by 1% to 2.5%, NBER reported.


"We find that drug utilization is highly responsive to advertising exposure," the study asserts. "Advertising increases the take-up of drug treatments and improves compliance for existing patients. Expanded take-up of prescription drugs accounts for about 70% of the total effect of advertising, while increased use among existing patients accounts for the remaining 30%."


The researchers also noted another "important component" to the increased use and compliance of drugs in general. That is, the increase and compliance wasn't just a switch from nonadvertised brands to the pushed one. Evidence showed the ads increased use and compliance of nonadvertised drug in the same therapeutic category in similar proportions, calling the effect "substantial positive spillover."




Pharma Guy's insight:

This more or less conforms what AMA said in its call for the ban on DTC advertising:  advertising “inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate" (http://sco.lt/4iRfrF). 

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DTC Ad Links to Higher Prices and Less Competition - Plausible or Dubious?

DTC Ad Links to Higher Prices and Less Competition - Plausible or Dubious? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Consequences of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising


This article focuses on a new study that suggests drug price increases are engineered to cover the costs of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA). Drug price trend data from AARP, AHRQ, and prescription drug consumer price index (CPI) are presented.

Topic headings include:

  • AARP Rx Watchdog Report Data
  • Flaws in the AARP Report 
  • Engineered Drug Price Increase
  • DTC Ad Spend Chart
  • Industry Says No Direct Link to DTC
  • Plavix and Medicaid
  • Smoking Gun Charts
  • Pharmacos Spend More on DTCA When There is No Competition
  • Plausible or Dubious?


Download PDF file

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"Ask Your Doctor" in DTC Ads: Effective or Not Effective?

"Ask Your Doctor" in DTC Ads: Effective or Not Effective? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

This month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that the affordability of prescription drugs continues to be at the top of the public’s priority list for the President and Congress.


Of interest to pharma marketers:


A large majority of Americans (82 percent) report seeing or hearing prescription drug advertisements, and 3 in 10 (28 percent) say they have talked with a doctor about the specific medicine they saw advertised. After talking to a doctor about a drug they saw, 15 percent of the public says the doctor recommended changes in their behavior or lifestyle, 14 percent say the doctor recommended a different prescription drug, 12 percent say they were given the drug they asked about, and 11 percent were instead recommended an over-the-counter option.


About half of the public (51 percent) say they think that prescription drug advertising is mostly a good thing, while 4 in 10 (39 percent) say the opposite. Regardless of whether they think drug advertisements are good or bad, the public seems to find them only moderately informative. Half (50 percent) say drug advertisements do a good or excellent job of telling consumers which condition or disease the drug is designed to treat. Over 4 in 10 say the advertisements do at least a good job telling consumers about the potential benefits (47 percent) and potential side effects they might experience (44 percent). About a quarter (24 percent) say the advertisements do at least a good job of informing consumers of how effective the drug is in treating a specific condition compared to other treatments. Just 11 percent say the ads are good or excellent at informing the public of the typical cost of the drug, while 20 percent say they do a fair job and a majority (65 percent) say they do a poor job.


More here...



Pharma Guy's insight:

Looking more closely at the numbers: Only 3 out of 100 Americans who have seen drug DTC ads get the drug they asked about. About 4 out of 100 get a competing drug. You tell me if DTC advertising is effective or not, based on this information.

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Hillary Clinton Vs. Pharmaceutical DTC Ads: Deja Vu All Over Again!

Hillary Clinton Vs. Pharmaceutical DTC Ads: Deja Vu All Over Again! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
If Hillary Clinton has her way, your TV watching may be less crowded with ads for "low T" and restless leg syndrome.


Clinton will call for cracking down onpharmaceutical drug ads by denying tax breaks for direct-to-consumer marketing and requiring the Food and Drug Administration to pre-clear the ads for accuracy and clarity.


The aim would be to push companies to invest more in research and development than marketing, especially taxpayer subsidies.


Clinton would also expand the availability of generics by boosting the FDA’s capacity to approve the drugs, and she’d decrease the intellectual property protections for expensive “biologic” drugs so generics could be produced faster. 


And she’d allow Americans to import cheaper drugs from Canada and other foreign country where the drugs are cheaper.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Poll results: Should the Tax Deduction for DTC Advertising Expenses be Eliminated? http://bit.ly/1QVMxCB 

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Mr. Mucus Gets a Makeover - Still Not Pretty, But Pathetic

Mr. Mucus Gets a Makeover - Still Not Pretty, But Pathetic | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Mucinex's easy-to-hate green blob is getting a makeover, Reckitt Beckinser (RB) announced this week. Mr. Mucus, the green antihero who resides in patients' chests, will receive a new, more relatable look, personality and voice. The multichannel campaign,, “Let's End This,” is the brand's first new campaign since “Mucinex In. Mucus Out” arrived 10 years ago.


As for Mr. Mucus, he will no longer simply represent congestion as a 2D character, but will instead live in the same world as sufferers. “By letting him interact with real actors, rather than just in an animated world, we can bring the ways cold and flu symptoms truly affect people's lives,” says Shivanthi Vannan, marketing director at RB. McCann New York, RB's agency of record since May 2014, lead development of the campaign.


Tom Murphy, chief creative officer at McCann New York, shed further light on the campaign's evolution in astatement: “This guy [Mr.Mucus] has the distinction of being one of the most recognized but least liked ad characters in the world. In other words, he is a huge asset to Mucinex. We're going to use him in much more relatable ways and make him the snotty little anti-hero you love to hate." 


Pharma Guy's insight:


According to AdAge: Mucinex got $57 million in measured media support last year, down from $92 million in 2012, according to Kantar Media, as an unusually harsh cold and flu season gave way to an unusually mild one. This year is already looking better for RB, with its cold-flu sales up 15.7% for the 12 weeks ended Sept. 27, vs. down 3.1% for the full 52 weeks, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank.


Compare the 2014 Mr Mucus to the 2009 Mr Mucus: Mr. Mucus Turns Bigger and Badder


In 2009, Mr. Mucus was an ominous biker character - sort of a combination of Marlon Brando and Shrek. Prior to that, Mr. Mucus  was just a poor family guy looking to set up a home for his new wife. Later, after an appropriate period of time had passed so that we didn't think Mrs. Mucus was pregnant before being married, little child mucuses were added to the family, which got blown out the nose and mouth when Mucinex entered the scene.


Now Mr Mucus is just a pathetic, sad character who asks: "Am I the 'yucky'?"

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Oh Yeah, Baby! Show Me More!... Viagra TV Ads Like This. But Don't Let My FDA See It!

Oh Yeah, Baby! Show Me More!... Viagra TV Ads Like This. But Don't Let My FDA See It! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Wowie zowie! Is that a roll of dimes quarters in my pocket or am I just excited to see this new Viagra DTC TV ad that features what could be a MILF? 


I pity the man who can't get an erection carousing with this woman in a beach resort or even watching her on TV lounging around the beach resort telling you that "plenty of guys" have "this issue"; i.e., getting and maintaining an erection.


Oh, Yeah! Well. I'm NOT having an issue right now!

Of course, this Viagra ad reneges on Pfizer's pledge back in 2005 to focus more on disease awareness in its DTC advertising. But (1) Pfizer withdrew that pledge (see here), and (2) this ad, IMHO, has sufficient redeeming prurient value to make us forget all about stuff like checking my blood pressure, etc. as a potential cause of ED.

But there's a fly in the ointment (not that I use the stuff). I think FDA will find problems with this ad.

Pharma Guy's insight:


This is an ad I can watch and by the time the voiceover goes through the litany of side effects, I will be so totally zoned out not to hear a word of it!


You know what's really funny yet sad? Pfizer actually did some market research to test the concept of a female ad: "The company asked 300 men to indicate whether certain TV concepts for Viagra would make them want to ask their doctors to prescribe the little blue pill. When it came to the female-focused ad, between 55% and 62% of men strongly agreed or somewhat agreed" (see here). What the hell's wrong with those 38% to 45% who disagreed? They must have been the ones with ED! 

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DTC Advertising a la Hitchcock: “And now for some unadorned facts"

DTC Advertising a la Hitchcock: “And now for some unadorned facts" | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In 1955, the broadcaster CBS proposed a deal with drugmaker Bristol-Myers (as it was then known) to sponsor a new TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The show, scheduled to premier later that year, would be a weekly anthology series focused on crime and mystery stories.


The unique selling point was that Hitchcock himself was to appear on screen, introducing and signing off each episode. Film directors were not particularly familiar to the public at the time, but Hitchcock was something of an exception, thanks to his fleeting appearances in his own movies. Spotting his portly presence tended be a moment of light relief amid the mounting suspense. The Bristol-Myers deal was clinched.


Bristol-Myers was the manufacturer of Bufferin; this and the company’s other products would be pushed during the show’s commercial breaks, a process that was already de rigueur on American network television. But the drugmaker got more than it initially bargained for. Hitchcock proved to be as audacious in front of the camera as he was behind it. And one of his on-screen innovations was to ridicule the sponsor at every available opportunity.


Bristol-Myers relaxed and joined in the fun. It even recruited Hitchcock to front a print advertising campaign for Bufferin that ran in magazines such as TV Guide.

Pharma Guy's insight:


Would any big pharma company these days "entertain the idea of a self-mocking ad campaign?" asks PharmExec. Well Pfizer tried it on FaceBook, sort of. Read "Pfizer's Facebook Fiasco: Chapstick Slapstick Ad Uses Woman's Ass as a Prop." It didn't go over so well.


Of course, these ads are for non-prescription consumer products, not serious Rx drugs.


PharmExec asks: "You have to wonder, though, given the industry’s reputational struggles, whether such a risk might be worth taking."


My response, viz-a-viz Rx ad campaigns, is NO! Especially when you have to mention serious side effects such as death! Not funny.

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Do Marketing Buzzwords Affect Pharma's Reputation Among Patients & Physicians?

Do Marketing Buzzwords Affect Pharma's Reputation Among Patients & Physicians? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

These terms are part of the marketing lexicon, which is not shared with pharma marketers' "target" audiences. It's only in the closed, small world of industry conferences, ad agency press releases, and marketers' LinkedIn pages that these terms are seen and heard. Therefore, my guess is that marketing speak has little effect on pharma's reputation among ordinary, every day patients and physicians.

Nevertheless, when pharma marketers use these buzzwords, I take out my "gun" because I, like Spong, do not trust that they are "truly putting patients at the heart of [their] business approach," whatever that means within a capitalistic organization these days. I know what Mr. Merck said about profits follow when the company puts patients first, but these days Big Pharma puts Wall Street interests first.

Pharma Guy's insight:


The industry has "abstained" from using a couple of these buzzwords, at least within topics presented at industry conferences. "Multi-Channel Marketing" and "market access" are still frequently-used terms, but "sales force effectiveness" and "closed-loop marketing" are hardly to be heard nowadays at industry conferences.

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"Desperate Turds" Print Ad: How Long Have They Been Trapped in That A-Hole?

"Desperate Turds" Print Ad: How Long Have They Been Trapped in That A-Hole? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Are you constipated? Well, if it's caused by your opioid pain medication, you might need prescription Movantik (read "Cam Newton Was Not the Only One 'Blocked' During Super Bowl 50").But if it's just run of the mill "occasional constipation," you might try an over-the-counter product such as Dulcolax Laxative by Boehringer Ingelheim.

I recently came across a Dulcolax print ad,  which ran in Singapore newspapers and bus shelters and which was on a 2014 shortlist under the outdoor category at Lions Health (read "Pharma Advertising is So Bad It Has No Big Winner at Cannes Lions Health 2014").

Creative advertising people have labeled the ad "Desperate Turds."

 

Yep! It's a view of turds (Scheisse) trapped inside an A-hole! The tagline -- along with a photo of a Dulcolax Laxative package -- is expressed in a turd's thought balloon: “Only you can set them free”.

As is often the case with OTC drug ads, the "Desperate Turds" ad misrepresents the effectiveness of Dulcolax Laxative to treat occasional constipation. More here...

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Survey: Few Gen-Xers & Baby Boomers Trust #Pharma Paid Celebrity Endorsements

Survey: Few Gen-Xers & Baby Boomers Trust #Pharma Paid Celebrity Endorsements | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Millennials were the most likely generation to respond to pharma advertising and visit a related website, a new survey from Makovsky/Kelton “Pulse of Online Search” survey found. Just over half (51%) of millennials would be motivated to visit a pharma site, compared to 36% of Gen-Xers and 26% of baby boomers.


Although online marketing has expanded, TV remained the most influential medium among millennials. Just over a quarter of those surveyed said they would respond most to TV advertising.
Celebrity endorsements, however, carried little weight. Only 22% of millennials and 13% of participants overall trusted celebrity endorsements of pharmaceuticals.


Although it may seem counterintuitive, millennials proved very responsive to television compared to other mediums. The youngest generation was also the most likely to ask for a medication for name when they visited the doctor’s office, with 69% reporting they would be likely to do so.

Pharma Guy's insight:

See more results form the Makovsk/Kelton Survey: http://bit.ly/MakovskySurvey 

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Should the Tax Deduction for DTC Advertising Expenses be Eliminated?

Should the Tax Deduction for DTC Advertising Expenses be Eliminated? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

69% of respondents to the Pharma Marketing News Future of DTC Survey said "yes" (39%) or "maybe, it depends" (30%) when asked if the DTC business tax deduction should be eliminated (see chart).

 

You can take this survey here and give you opinion about this and other issues that will have an imppact on the future of DTC. Afterward, you can view a summary of the latest, de-identified results.

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Pfizer Continues to Dominate TV DTC Advertising Spending

Pfizer Continues to Dominate TV DTC Advertising Spending | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Pfizer owned TV ad spending for 2015 among pharma brands. It took 5 spots on the top 10 list for the year, including Nos. 1 and 2, according to iSpot.tv estimated spending tallied for FiercePharmaMarketing.


Seizure and pain drug Lyrica came in first with $116.2 million spent in 2015, while Pfizer's pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine Prevnar13 came in at No. 2 with $101.7 million.


The three other Pfizer drugs on the list were anticoagulant Eliquis (No. 5), arthritis fighter Xeljanz (No. 6) and smoking cessation drug Chantix (No. 9), spending $96.7 million, $85.3 million, and $68.5 million respectively, according to iSpot.tv data.


Thanks at least in part to the new SGLT2 inhibitor class of drugs, diabetes category ad spending rose to $468 million in 2015--an increase of 141%--from $194 million in 2014. In 2015, 11 different diabetes brands ran 31 different commercials more than 66,000 times on U.S. national television, while in 2014 just 7 brands ran 20 ads about 29,000 times, iSpot analysts noted.


The top 10 list by estimated TV media spending for 2015 follows:


1. Pfizer's Lyrica: $116.2 million
2. Pfizer's Prevnar 13: $101.7
3. Johnson & Johnson's Invokana: $101.3 million
4. AbbVie's Humira: $98.6 million
5. Pfizer's Eliquis: $96.7 million
6. Pfizer's Xeljanz: $85.3 million
7. AstraZeneca's Farxiga: $78.4 million
8. Bayer's Xarelto: $75.4 million
9. Pfizer's Chantix: $68.5 million
10. Sanofi's Auvi-Q: $54.2 million


Pfizer's Share of 2015 TV ad spend is 54%!


Pharma Guy's insight:

According to 2014 data, if Pfizer chose not to do direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, we'd have less bad ads to criticize (as, for example, this ad for Viagra) and the total spending on DTC advertising would be 30% less than it is today. In 2014, Nielsen estimates that the U.S. drug industry spent $4.53 Bn on DTC advertising. Pfizer spent $1.4 Bn.

That's right... Pfizer spends nearly one-third (30%) of all the DTC ad dollars!

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Xifaxan TV DTC "Bubble Guts" Character Is Creepy: Another Reason to Ban Ads?

Xifaxan TV DTC "Bubble Guts" Character Is Creepy: Another Reason to Ban Ads? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

It's been called a bowel lizard and a walking colon, nicknamed Bubble Guts, and compared to both a dinosaur and Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks. "It" is Valeant Pharmaceuticals' newest spokes-character, the pink and jiggly "Gut Guy" starring in TV ads for its IBS-D treatment, Xifaxan.


But that's not all people are saying. With a significant TV ad push--real-time ad tracker iSpot.tv noted more than $20 million since it began in October--Gut Guy has gotten noticed. On Twitter, comments skew negative with words like "disturbing" and "creepy," and one tweeter went further with this comment: "An anthropomorphic digestive tract mascot?! We had a good run, humanity."


However, "Gut Guy" also has his fans. At least half a dozen tweets asked for a character "plushy" or doll, while others expressed fondness or empathy for the "cute" and "cuddly" mascot.


"He reminds me of a balloon animal; he's bouncy when he walks. Personally, I feel sympathetic toward him, like 'poor guy, he doesn't feel very well,'" said Niki Strealy, via email. She is a registered and licensed dietician nutritionist who specialized in gastrointestinal issues and is unabashedly straightforward.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Wow! 6 fans on Twitter! What a success. Want more DTC balloon creature? See: http://bit.ly/oSLPEi 

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#Pharma Spends More on DTC Advertising When There is No Competition

#Pharma Spends More on DTC Advertising When There is No Competition | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), "Promotional Spending for Prescription Drugs" (find it here), counterintuitively suggests that "drugs with little competition are likely to be marketed to consumers far more aggressively than drugs with a lot of competition" (NY Times). According to the report:


"Pharmaceutical manufacturers tend to spend more, on average, on DTC advertising for drugs that have few or no direct competitors (meaning there are few other drugs that treat the same condition using the same mechanism) than on products with numerous alternatives. Excluding some classes of drugs with the highest-selling and most advertised drugs -- where a drug’s potential market size might overwhelm other factors in setting a marketing plan -- the data analyzed by CBO show that average spending per drug on DTC advertising generally declines as the number of competitors in the same class increases (see Figure below). When a class includes more drugs, pharmaceutical manufacturers tend to spend less, on average, on DTC advertising because the benefits of that advertising (higher sales) may be diffused among the other drugs in the class."


"A monopoly," says the NY Times reporter, "reaps any benefits of its advertising alone."

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Villanova Scientists Long Ago Proved that DTC Spending Does Not Impact Rx Prices

Villanova Scientists Long Ago Proved that DTC Spending Does Not Impact Rx Prices | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

"where it q is the quantity sold for brand i in time t (in 000s), it p is the price of brand i at time t (in dollars per unit), the lower case advertising variables represent the flow or current period advertising (in $000’s), the upper case advertising variables represent the current stock of advertising up to time t (in $000’s), it Exper is the number of months that drug i was on the market prior to time t , and it cp is a weighted average of competitors’ prices at time t . We take logs of both price and quantity so that 1 β represents the price..."

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How Many DTC Ads Are Worth 800 Jobs? Bingen Will Find Out, Says CEO

How Many DTC Ads Are Worth 800 Jobs? Bingen Will Find Out, Says CEO | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Tecfidera's slowing growth trajectory has gotten maker Biogen ($BIIB) into a pickle lately, propelling it to announce more than 800 layoffs Wednesday. But the drugmaker is hoping it can put the money it saves through those cuts into marketing activities that'll help the multiple sclerosis med pick up the pace in the U.S.


As the Massachusetts company laid out with its third-quarter earnings release, the workforce reduction will save it about $250 million per year. And it plans to reinvest that money in, among other things, new DTC marketing programs for Tecfidera, CEO George Scangos told investors on a conference call, as quoted by TheStreet.


And the company doesn't intend to waste any time continuing the DTC push. It expects to invest in Tecfidera in Q4 of this year, CFO Paul Clancy told investors, and Biogen's current thinking is that DTC outreach will extend "throughout the majority of 2016."


The way Biogen sees it, that advertising will help it win over "a whole set of patients through patient awareness," Clancy said--which is currently low, according to the data the drugmaker's got. It also figures that "when a patient comes to her doctor, particularly in the United States, with a preferred therapy, that is often the therapy that the patient goes on," he said, meaning there's a "big opportunity" on the awareness side.

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FDA to Study Effect of Efficacy Claims in Print DTC Ads

FDA to Study Effect of Efficacy Claims in Print DTC Ads | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
The FDA plans to run a pair of studies to determine the extent to which consumers view claims about a drug being the number one medicine prescribed by physicians as positie nformation or as a substitute for effectiveness data.


In explaining its thinking, the agency notes that marketing research has found such claims can, indeed, affect consumer beliefs about the quality of a medicine, as well as their beliefs about a doctor’s judgment. But the agency also points out that earlier studies did not specifically examine information about effectiveness claims made in advertising.


Moreover, the objective quality of prescription drugs is not easily obtained from promotional claims in direct-to-consumer ads, according to the FDA. As a result, consumers may rely upon what are known as extrinsic cues – such as price or drug name – to make decisions about whether a medicine may be suitable. Although they may also respond to intrinsic cues, such as pill size and shape.


“Research indicates that providing consumers with efficacy information generally improves understanding and facilitates decision making,” the FDA writes in the notice. “Efficacy information may moderate the effect of the extrinsic cue by providing insight into characteristics that would otherwise be unknown.”


To determine how information about effectiveness sways patients, the FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion will survey patients who have diabetes and show them nine different print ads with varying amounts of effectiveness data.

Pharma Guy's insight:

One marketing expert says the study is a good idea, but may have limitations.


“Ads that promote efficacy in the headlines get a patient’s attention and they may read more of the ad. But it has been my experience that efficacy, in a patient’s mind, has to be balanced with safety information and cost,” says Richard Meyer, chief strategy officer at Strategic Business Solutions, a health digital marketing consulting firm, and who writes the World of DTC Marketing blog.

“What I found is that efficacy claims are great at building awareness but patients are smart enough to want to know more,” he continues. “A top page within pharmaceutical product websites continues to be safety information, which tells me that patients want to know the tradeoffs in therapy and side effects.”

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New Viagra TV Ad - as Well as All Other #Pharma TV ads - Should Be Dropped, Says Former Pfizer Executive

New Viagra TV Ad - as Well as All Other #Pharma TV ads - Should Be Dropped, Says Former Pfizer Executive | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it
While we can debate the impact of TV ads on the industry’s reputation, I find it hard to believe that the latest Viagra TV campaign is helping to “earn the trust and respect” of any of the constituents cited above. If one truly believes that the industry’s reputation is paramount, stop airing the new Viagra commercial.


*************

The new Viagra ad is not just offensive and hurts pharma's reputation, it also may be a magnet for an FDA warning letter. Read this hilarious post by PharmaGuy to find out whyOh Yeah, Baby! Show Me More!... Viagra TV Ads Like This. But Don't Let My FDA See It!

Pharma Guy's insight:


That's the opinion of John LaMattina, Former Pfizer President of R&D.


In another Forbes opinion piece titled "Pharma's Reputation Continues to Suffer -- What Can Be Done To Fix It" (find it here), LaMattina offered 4 "fixes," including "Drop TV Ads" as #4 on his list.

The other 3 fixes LaMattina put on a par with dropping TV ads are

  1. Transparency of payments to healthcare professionals, 
  2. Transparency of clinical trial data, and 
  3. Stop the illegal detailing of drugs 
  4. Drop TV Ads


Drug TV ads, says LaMattina, "may be doing more harm than good. The litany of side effects that must be discussed is numbing and probably doesn’t provide a sense of the true risk-benefit for that medication. Plus, the public views these ads to be a waste of funds that could otherwise be invested in R&D or in lessening drug costs." 


You might also be interested in reading this article:  Bad, Devalued, Distrusted & Defensive Pharma


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"Plenty" of Guys Have Erectile Dysfunction Says Middle-Aged Woman in Viagra TV Ad

"Plenty" of Guys Have Erectile Dysfunction Says Middle-Aged Woman in Viagra TV Ad | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

In the new 60-second ad, a middle-aged woman reclining on a bed in a tropical setting addresses the problems couples encounter when a man is impotent.


"So guys, it's just you and your honey. The setting is perfect. But then erectile dysfunction happens again," she says before encouraging men to ask their doctor about Viagra. "Plenty of guys have this issue — not just getting an erection, but keeping it."


Having a woman speak directly to men about impotence is a unique strategy for Pfizer Inc. The world's second-biggest drugmaker is looking for ways to boost sales of Viagra, Pfizer's No. 6 seller, at a time when it is encountering new competition.


Executives at New York-based Pfizer hope the new ad campaign, which includes print ads in publications such as Esquire and Time, will nudge women to broach the subject with their mates. In the ad, the actress also uses the word "erection," instead of the industry euphemism, "ED."


Pfizer's marketing chief, Vic Clavelli, told The Associated Press that the company is trying to take a more direct approach in ads, unlike past ones "built around very subtle innuendo."


Until now, women have been absent or played background roles in the many ads for ED drugs since the first, Viagra, was launched in 1998. 

Pharma Guy's insight:


Ewww! That's the last thing a man wants to hear from a woman! Perhaps a middle-aged woman is OK, but, you know 40 is the new 25 these days.


I'll hold off my criticism until I see the ad. 


BTW, last night's HBO series "Masters of Sex" was all about treating ED through a non-sexual regimen that involves touching, etc. The Cialis commercials "touch" on that. Who knows, it may be why Cialis is competing well with Viagra!

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Comparative Claims in Video Ads Make Drugs Seem Safer, More Effective Says FDA Study

Comparative Claims in Video Ads Make Drugs Seem Safer, More Effective Says FDA Study | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Using comparative claims in drug advertisements can make them more effective at persuading consumers that a drug is safer and more effective than the drug it’s being compared to, according to new research conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and published this month.


Writing in the journal Social Science & Medicine, FDA Social Science Analyst Amie O'Donaghue and colleagues with FDA's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) and RTI International looked at findings from two FDA-sponsored studies comparing the effectiveness of different types of direct-to-consumer advertising.


The first of those studies involved 1,934 participants, who viewed fictitious ads for a fake osteoarthritis drug. Participants either viewed a print or video advertisement, and the advertisements either had no comparative claim or compared the drug's efficacy to a competitor product.


As O'Donaghue and colleagues explain in the study, "Participants who viewed print (but not video) ads with named competitors had greater efficacy and lower risk perceptions than participants who viewed unnamed competitor and non-comparative ads."


In the second study, participants who had either high cholesterol or high body mass were recruited to view a fictitious print or video advertisement depicting either no comparative claim or a comparison to a similar product.


Again, study participants were found to have a perception of greater efficacy for products compared to other drugs. Interestingly, however, unlike in the first experiment, the second study found that "named competitors in print ads resulted in higher risk perceptions than unnamed competitors."


But even despite this increase, O'Donaghue found video ads to be particularly effective at increasing both recall of the drug's benefits and minimizing a drug's potential risks.


"In video ads, participants who saw an indication comparison had greater benefit recall than participants who saw dosing or mechanism of action comparisons. In addition, visual depictions of the comparison decreased risk recall for video ads," she explained. "Overall, the results suggest that comparative claims in DTC ads could mislead consumers about a drug's efficacy and risk; therefore, caution should be used when presenting comparative claims in DTC ads."

Pharma Guy's insight:


Study Abstract

Although pharmaceutical companies cannot make comparative claims in direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads for prescription drugs without substantial evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits some comparisons based on labeled attributes of the drug, such as dosing. Researchers have examined comparative advertising for packaged goods; however, scant research has examined comparative DTC advertising. We conducted two studies to determine if comparative claims in DTC ads influence consumers' perceptions and recall of drug information. In Experiment 1, participants with osteoarthritis (n = 1934) viewed a fictitious print or video DTC ad that had no comparative claim or made an efficacy comparison to a named or unnamed competitor. Participants who viewed print (but not video) ads with named competitors had greater efficacy and lower risk perceptions than participants who viewed unnamed competitor and noncomparative ads. In Experiment 2, participants with high cholesterol or high body mass index (n = 5317) viewed a fictitious print or video DTC ad that had no comparative claim or made a comparison to a named or unnamed competitor. We varied the type of comparison (of indication, dosing, or mechanism of action) and whether the comparison was accompanied by a visual depiction. Participants who viewed print and video ads with named competitors had greater efficacy perceptions than participants who viewed unnamed competitor and noncomparative ads. Unlike Experiment 1, named competitors in print ads resulted in higher risk perceptions than unnamed competitors. In video ads, participants who saw an indication comparison had greater benefit recall than participants who saw dosing or mechanism of action comparisons. In addition, visual depictions of the comparison decreased risk recall for video ads. Overall, the results suggest that comparative claims in DTC ads could mislead consumers about a drug's efficacy and risk; therefore, caution should be used when presenting comparative claims in DTC ads.

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