Time for DTC marketers to get to work

its timePOST SUMMARY: Consumers don’t trust big pharma, but hey are going online in bigger numbers to get health information.  If we want to be part of the conversation we need to EARN their trust one patient at a time.  It’s not going to be easy, but we need to fight for patients at every meeting and within every online digital interaction.

Accordint to Forbes: You don’t have too look far to find unflattering articles about the pharmaceutical industry. What was previously the domain of industry critics like Marcia Angell, Ray Moynihan and the newest entrant to the field, Ben Goldacre, has now grown to include popular television programs such as The Dr. Oz Show. When Dr. Oz, who has over 4 million daily viewers, devotes the bulk of a show to “Four Secrets Drug Companies Don’t Want You To Know”, the industry has got a problem.



What is driving this negative view of pharma from a patient’s perspective? The patient groups listed a number of areas where pharma was rated as having a “poor” record including:

1) A lack of fair pricing policies leading to unseemly profits (50%);

2) A lack of transparency in all corporate activities (48%);

3) Management of adverse event news (37%);

4) Acting with integrity (32%).


This comes at a time when more consumers want to take an active role in healthcare decisions. U.S. consumers’ desire to take an active role in their health decisions is growing, according to the Altarum Institute Survey of Consumer Health Care Opinions.

61% of people want to make health decisions either on their own (26%) or with input from their doctor (38%). The proportion of people wanting to be “completely in charge of my decisions” rose 4 percentage points in one year, from 2011. This statistic skews younger, with 33% of people 25-34 and 31% of those 35-44 wanting to be “completely in charge.” Only 17% of those 55-64 felt like being totally in charge of their health care decisions. However online is definitely starting to play more of a role. More than half of a survey’s respondents said they print out information from the Web to give to patients, and more than 80 percent in private practice said they referred patients to online sources. Only 3 percent said technology causes distractions or obstacles.

Patients who research health information online are not driven to do so by mistrust for their doctors. Rather, they do their homework to simply be more informed about and involved in managing their health, according to a study from UC Davis Health System. The study found that patients’ online research did affect interactions with their doctors. According to the survey of more than 500 people who were members of online support groups and had scheduled appointments with a physician:

  • Nearly 70 percent of respondents were planning to ask their doctors questions about the information they found.
  • About 40 percent printed Web material to bring to their medical visit.
  • More than 50 percent said they planned to make at least one request to their doctor based on their Web research.
  • Patients were more likely to look for medical information online when their condition was distressful, or they perceived some level of personal control over their illness.
  • Internet research was more common among patients who believed their conditions were long term

Opportunities do exist though for pharma.  The ePharma Consumer — 2012 study, based on an online survey of 6,607 adults, conducted in the last three months of 2012, found that 30% of online consumers with a chronic condition and 38% of caregivers are interested in registering for a patient-support program that would give access to a range of services, such as financial assistance, meal plans and recipes, condition-management tools and a hotline of registered nurses. Current adoption of such programs varies considerably from one condition to another; for example, 41% of online patients with multiple sclerosis used one. In addition, 75% of online consumers using online pharma patient support programs said they feel confident their prescriptions are right for them.


I’m ready to get back to work with clients, do some research and develop some kick ass digital marketing initiatives that are patient focused.  I’m ready to win them over one at a time and be their voice in meetings.  How about you?