Blockbuster drugs are an addiction for Big Pharma

Blockbuster drugs.  They are, to this day, an addiction for big pharma.  A blockbuster can produce a huge ROI and fund the development of new drugs and new marketing programs but today the deck is stacked against blockbuster drugs.

The healthcare environment today is one in which cost containment is a key element.  In the next few years a lot of blockbuster drugs are going to come off patent including Lipitor, Zyprexa, Cymbalta and Viagra.  Insurers, before adding new and improved brands, are asking for clinical proof that new products outperform generics.  In addition the FDA is taking a harder look at all new drug applications and in most cases is asking for more clinical studies before approval cutting down on the time the drug is on the market and this the ROI for these products.

Drug companies have moved from an individual patient focus to accommodate a host of competing interests from shareholders to Wall Street analysts.

Rather than reward excellent failures most drug companies continue to punish mediocre successes.  Rather than embrace people with an attitude of a Linchpin drug companies reward those “who fit in” and don’t make waves even if it means leaving patients and customers interests behind.

The Long Tail, which came out many years ago, simply states that rather than relying on one or two huge products companies should look to maximize ROI for a lot of products that don’t have huge sales.  You would think by now that leadership within the drug industry would acknowledge this but they all seem to be betting on the next big product.

Marketing, within the drug industry, seems to be about new Rx’s and new patients.  They market to the masses while overlooking the individual.  Kind of like staring at the distant mountains while ignoring the beauty of flowers at your feet. Is it time to shift this thinking ?

My personal belief is that the focus needs to be on both.  Marketers need to get people within their target market to ask for an Rx but once they ask for an Rx they also need to get them to stay on therapy.  This is difficult I know but before you can have a big success we probably are going to need a lot of failures along the way.  This is especially true if you subscribe that blockbuster drugs are going to be harder and harder to develop.

DTC marketing can be one of the many triggers that empowers patients. Once consumers see DTC ads they are more likely to go online and research the product and health condition if they are interested in that health condition of have symptoms in which they are trying to learn the possible causes.

Consumers do NOT see ads on TV and then run to their doctors to ask for an Rx regardless of what some DTC marketers would have us believe.   Marketing to consumers today is going to require a more personalized approach with relevant content and messages.

It’s hard to change business models but when you continue with the same marketing even thought the business environment has changed you are just ignoring the reality of today’s economic and consumer behavior environment.   Don’t rely on blockbusters, rely on forming relationships with customers via mutual respect and an exchange of information that doesn’t always sell.  It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts but because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.

Richard Meyer is Executive Director/Principal at Online Strategic Solutions and blogs at World of DTC Marketing.com.

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  • Doc99

    I learned a long time ago not to learn my pharmacology from the friendly drug rep. In general, I’ve found it beneficial for me and my patients to be a late-adopter, not the first.

    As for DTC, I say leave me out of this loop entirely. if a large corporate entity is going to market an expensive new product to “consumers,” with “ask your prescriber,” I say let them simply make these products OTC. Let the CVS’s and RiteAid’s of the world as well as the Merck’s and Pfizer’s deal with the fallout. Caveat emptor!

  • gzuckier

    It always amazes me that so many products are prescription-only. Are we as a nation really facing an epidemic of diaper-rash medication abuse, if it were to be made more freely available?

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