What’s the most significant change in DTC?

Consumers have changed their shopping behavior due to the pandemic, and some of those changes are relevant for pharma marketers. The days of someone seeing an ad for a prescription drug and rushing to ask their doctor about it have replaced the quest for more information, usually online.

CPG brands have finally admitted that consumers are changing how they purchase products and brands. Some ignore the trends and believe their brand equity is too strong to be affected, but that’s a huge mistake.

When examing pharma DTC a lot has changed from the model of awareness to Rx. Today patients and caregivers want to know more about the product’s side effects and cost, and they also want to hear from current patients.

I’ve been watching the new “diabetes weight loss drugs” on social media, and the conversation has been robust. While the media continues to talk about the weight loss these drugs produce, patients have been asking questions about the side effects and whether they will need to be on this drug for life. HCPs are more worried about the drug’s side effects on patients and whether patients will look at these products as an “easy fix” while continuing to live unhealthy lifestyles.

As interest in these products spikes, it’s evident that the drug companies are choosing to remain silent, which leads to more people getting false or harmful information online. Too many see these products as a shortcut to losing weight and don’t know that patients, who take these drugs, need to watch their diets and exercise even though the drug seems to curb appetites.

The drug companies making these drugs should have anticipated these questions and been ready to respond to them rather than rely on the media to promote them with headlines touting miracle weight loss.

DTC marketers should map the journey from awareness to asking for an Rx that includes a parallel map for HCPs. Two doctors I chatted with said they are getting requests from patients who want to lose weight and do not have diabetes. Others have said that insurance companies are choosing not to cover these drugs. It’s leading to high frustration among people desperate to lose weight.

What can we learn from this?

1ne: The information on your product’s website is insufficient to lead to an Rx.

2wo: DTC marketers must be better prepared for possible obstacles to asking for an Rx and have content developed to inform and educate.

3hree: DTC marketers need to work with HCP marketing for feedback on media stories and how they deal with misleading information.

4our: Listening to social media and identifying threats is essential to developing content.

5ive: The patient segment should develop an active map of the journey. This map needs to be updated as new treats and opportunities are uncovered.

6ix: When the media promotes your product based on false information, pharma marketers need to be ready to respond. For example, a recent headline said that a patient on a new diabetes drug lost 54 pounds. Weight loss like that is not standard, and DTC marketers should clarify that.

As these drugs get widely prescribed, one has to wonder what the media will say when a patient has a negative side effect and winds up in the hospital. What will DTC marketers do then?