First let me say that I am a big fan of Merck. Their new CEO is bucking Wall Street and investing more in R&D because he believes the development of new drugs is paramount to success of his company. Merck has launched a new site called Merck Engage but it’s not really engagement at all, it’s another health portal and it does not allow for community engagement. So why build a site like this at all when you don’t have a crowd waiting to get in ?
To me engagement is not a website with tools and information for patients. Engagement = conversation. The idea of the Merck engagement site is actually not a bad idea but is it just another pharma site among the clutter of so many health sites ? I have to believe that the answer to that is “yes”.
To talk (engage) someone you have to be able to trust them. This is especially true when it comes to medications that we put in our body that can have bad side effects that interfere with our quality of life. If I am taking a Merck drug the last place I want to go is to a Merck site to see what it’s like to take the drug because I want to read it from someone I trust and right now trust in biopharma companies is at an all time low.
The good things about the Merck site is that they have developed some tools to “motivate” people to stay healthy and live healthy but again I am not sure that people want this from a pharma company. Some will say “hey, at least they are doing something” and to that I say “that’s not good enough today when marketing is moving at light speed and patients often know more than brands”.
This is an unbranded site and they surely could have tied in social media and other tools to make it a complete online integrated experience. Seems like the lawyers or regulatory said no though and the more they say no the more patients just go else where to get the information they need.
An ROI Research study points out that consumers voice complaints about certain verticals more so than others. Survey respondents listed household products, telecommunications and healthcare and pharma as top categories for expressing dissatisfaction on a social network. As long as pharma continues to ignore this conversation they will continue to loose the people who say “I am a person not a patient”.
- Merck chief concerned over future U.S. biopharma innovation (fiercebiotech.com)
- Merck CEO Frazier stands by his $8B R&D gamble (fiercebiotech.com)
- FDA says Merck drug successfully fights hepatitis (seattlepi.com)