DTC will need to adapt to survive and thrive


  •  Constraints around market access and pricing, changing patterns of demand, and continuing downward pressure on health care budgets are presenting the pharma industry with a volatile and highly uncertain economic environment.
  • Health care is increasingly moving from treatment to prevention and even cure, building robust evidence to back health care claims, as well as improving relationships with patients based on trust,
  • In an environment of competing, products it’s essential to leverage patient engagement vis digital marketing.

According to Deloitte “the past decade has seen increasing pressures undermine the productivity of biopharma R&D, leading to a decade of decline in the return on investment. At the same time, innovative new treatments are changing the face of disease management. New treatment modalities and an increasing understanding of precision medicine have led to the need for new R&D models and a future where medicine is more participatory, preventative, and personalized.”

In short, the environment in which we market is changing faster than most pharma companies can manage. This is especially true for DTC marketing.

TV commercials and stagnant, unfriendly websites are extinct and you can bet that DTC budgets are going to come under more scrutiny as management looks to trim costs. While there has been a mention that pharma is increasing their digital spend it’s not being spent in the right areas to reach patients.

Research has shown that people trust pharma when it comes to developing life-saving drugs but they don’t trust pharma in other areas. While your metrics might show that people are coming to your website your site’s effectiveness in driving brand objectives is declining.

In analyzing social media for various health conditions I have found bot an increase in use as well as more questions and comments being posted around drug side effects. Click-stream analysis also shows that online health seekers are turning to other websites for information they need to make treatment choices.

Some pharma companies are dabbling in social media but most are afraid and don’t have the resources to address patient needs. Websites need a content strategy for the latest health information as well as “easy to read” general health information but managers would rather spend the money to determine the “right look” for commercials.

We’re going to enter an era when DTC managers, and agencies, are going to have to convince management that they need to invest in patient engagement and that this engagement doesn’t have a hard ROI. You can’t measure attempts to renew trust in an industry so publicly damaged in an election year.

Either DTC will adapt if it will slowly die. Innovative managers might have success but the cost, rather than the value is going to scrutinized with an electron microscope. Lay the foundation NOW to win back a skeptical public and put a human face on corporate pharma.