This week, among the many press releases I receive, was some information that indicated that cancer patients would choose less aggressive treatments because of potential side effects. This tells me that today, patients are more worried about quality of life when it comes to choosing healthcare treatments. This is something that all DTC marketers need to note because all the DTC ads in the world are not going to overcome a list of really bad potential side effects.Physicians assess treatment success by looking at numbers. Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and thyroid function are all tracked with numbers. The goal is usually to get these measurements into a normal range. It’s too bad there is no simple number to measure quality of life. That’s what patients really care about and they will avoid prescription drugs that detract from quality of life.
I was just revisiting some of the research that led for clients around DTC advertising and consistent throughout the research summaries is the finding that a lot of consumers are making healthcare treatments based upon potential quality of life issues (as it pertains to drug side effects). When we dug down deeper we found that with all the stresses in their daily lives consumers just don’t have time to deal with drugs that could lead to a lesser quality of life “as they perceive that quality of life”. THEY ! That’s the key.
When we asked for examples some talked about Chantix (suicidal thoughts) and Enbrel (fatal side effects). Maybe that’s why most psorairis patients choose topical treatments instead of Enbrel or Humira. What really surprised me, however, was that even when consumers were interested in DTC ads, many of them said they would go online to “get more information” about treatment options. Although some said they would use social media I was also not prepared for the comment that “that’s their experience, not mine”.
What can DTC marketers do to address quality of life issues ?
(1) First, don’t ignore them; rather talk about them in real world language that patients understand. Why not quantify the quality of life issues via the results in clinical trials rather than bury them in the product label.
(2) Share real patient stories on your website – Patients want to hear from patients like me so why not ask for real patient stories and testimonials ?
(3) Use images on your website that show real people NOT actor portrayals. If you have to ask why you don’t belong in DTC marketing.
(4) Update your website when people are talking about your product on social media. Listen and respond quickly.
(5) If your product has fair balance that includes the word “fatal” think about the channel you’re using. On TV for example having an extended list of fair balance could ensure that your target audience won’t consider your product.
The objective is not to guise fair balance or drug side effects but to foster an open and honest communication with your audience who is going to find out the truth anyway via the always on Internet.