Is there any such thing as an “ethical pharma marketer”?

ethicsKEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma marketers need to be held to a higher ethical standard than other industries.  Ethics is essential if we are to regain consumer trust and the bad seeds have to be removed before they do more damage to an already fragile industry.

The goal of any marketer is to get your audience to purchase your product.  However, with pharmaceutical products the path from awareness to conversion is very different from consumer products.  Today, consumers of healthcare want to better understand medications, their side effects and costs.


Most DTC marketing consists of developing and testing compelling messages aimed at specific patient populations.  These messages, alone, are often not enough to overcome the barriers between wanting and Rx and actually receiving the marketed one.  In addition, recent polls have shown that the trust in pharma is pretty much in the basement.  It’s for these reasons that pharma marketers need to ensure every touchpoint with their marketing is clean.  What does that mean:

1ne: DTC marketers need a better and in depth understanding of each segment, including the microsegments within their target market.


2wo: DTC marketers need a “balanced” approach when marketing prescription drugs.  This means educating, both what the medication can and can’t do.  Stop trying to sell your product to everyone within your patient population.

3hree: Someone on the DTC team, beyond legal and regulatory, has to be the voice of the patient.  This is essential.

4our: DTC marketers who make bad marketing decisions based on their own self-interests should be banned from developing DTC programs.  In addition, agencies that try and cheat current “good marketing” guidelines should be terminated.

5ive: Every pharma company should require marketers to attend an annual” bioethics marketing” course. These courses need to taught by outside people who have expertise in this area.

The other issue that I should focus on is the overall motivation and ethics of some people within our industry.  There are too many who are interested only in the bottom line and being recognized and promoted.  It’s hard to put ethics first when the people who ride to the top and get the open the executive positions within pharma are the ones with successful “sales” records, even though some has deployed questionable tactics.


We all have to be the change we want to see in our industry so we don’t wind up like the executives at Mylan who increased prices for shareholders and their own wallets.