DTC Marketers need to acknowledge the voice of patients

photswitchKEY TAKEAWAY: “How did we get to this point that we have a culture like this in corporate America that wants to stick it to consumers?” said Rep. Lacy Clay at yesterday’s hearing om the EpiPen.  This sentiment echoes the anger of a lot of people towards the drug industry, yet the drug industry seems to ignore their voices and is carrying on like nothing has changed.

According to Harvard Business Review “Pharmaceutical companies traditionally invest heavily in research and development. The costs required to bring a new drug to market vary widely — anywhere from hundreds of millions to upwards of $2.6 billion, as estimated by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in 2014. In many cases, drug pricing justifiably reflects this investment. What’s troubling is that the emerging breed of pharma companies prioritize profits over drug discovery and manufacturing. They legally acquire the rights to existing drugs and charge exorbitant prices following FDA approval, all without ever having made meaningful research or development investment.”  More fuel for the voices of mistrust.

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At yesterday’s hearing on Capital Hill the CEO of Mylan said that they were only making $50 in profit for every EpiPen sold.  That is complete and utter bullshit.  First, any company, in any industry can apply various levels of expenses to reduce profit margins on any product.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Mylan is applying a lot of expenses to the EpiPen, which may, or may not, include the private company jet the CEO used to get to the hearings in Washington DC.

This morning, on TV, in print and online the results of the hearing were everywhere with politicians asking hard questions that won’t mean a damn thing to patients who have to pay for the drug.

With patients paying more out-of-pocket for their healthcare and with the price of brand-name prescription drugs jumping 164 percent between 2008 and 2015 (Express Scripts) American consumers are saying enough is enough.   In 2013, Americans spent on average $858 per person on prescription drugs, compared with an average of $400 in 19 other industrialized nations, according to a study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association last month.

Yet with all this going on drug companies are carrying on like nothing has changed.  That is a huge mistake.  DTC ads can no longer just educate and inform they have to provide a clear benefit that can overcome the challenged between awareness and conversion, but much more than that drug companies have to stop treating patients like a market segment and show, through their actions, that they care about each and every patient beyond the buzz word “patient engagement”.

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Drug companies need a customer retention and advancement department within the organization whose job will be to ensure that patients can afford an Rx drug, through discounts, and help them overcome the barriers to getting and filling Rx’s.  We can’t sit back and talk about target markets, segments and mass marketing.  The time to earn trust is NOW.