How can pharma earn the trust of patients?

Never in recorded history have Americans been more distrustful of how the U.S. government spends its money.  According to Gallup poll, Americans on average say that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, the highest level ever recorded since the poll was first taken in 1979.  DTC marketers should understand that this mistrust is also leading to mistrust of marketing and advertising as well as big drug companies.  We need to acknowledge this mistrust and earn patients trust everyday through our consistent actions.

A lot of pharma believe that they don’t need to worry about consumers trust.  After all if they need your product they need it and to them trust doesn’t enter the equation but this thinking is not always relevant.  Today it’s about choice and patients not only have a lot of products to choose from they are also speaking up about those choices.  It’s also important to understand that today in an era of immediate information trust is something that has to earned day after day through consistent actions including transparency and the willingness to work with patients to get the right information and answer to their questions.

So how can pharma earn the trust of patients and consumers?

  • More transparency around ongoing clinical trials and newly reported side effects.   Instead of trying to “spin” the data pharma needs to be more open about what it means or what it doesn’t mean.  Right now patients feel that they have to go elsewhere to “get the whole story.”
  • Use actual patient stories more.  The power of social media is not to sell to people but to bring people together.  Patients want to hear from other patients when it comes treatment options so they can know what to expect.  Foster these connections and only say something that is relevant to the conversation and helps patients make decisions.
  • Offer to let patients “register” as users of your products and keep them up to date when it comes new product information.  Yes I know the patient privacy issue but if you are transparent and inform patients that this data is secure and protected and how you are going to use it (patient benefits of communication) then people are likely to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship.
  • Update content on your website on a regular basis.  Brands are media and one way to get ahead of the competition and differentiate yourself if to become an expert in your area. Keep fresh content coming make your brand website a destination to stay on top of health news for a condition.
  • If there is a news story about your drug “possibly” causing a problem than address it as soon as you can.  Do not however simply attack the study but convince and convert people towards the truth.

Most of all DTC marketers have to understand that trust is one of the barriers to effective marketing and that they need to do everything they can not to sell to consumers as much as provide them with what they need to make good health choices. If you believe in your product you can easily accomplish this just pass your passion for your brand to them.

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

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  • Jim Nichols

    I’m sure most primary physicians would disagree that people distrust pharma. They know that as soon as some commercial starts to air touting a new drug, docs will be inundated with requests for it, by patients the docs diagnosed and by patients who self-diagnosed. Pharma knows it, too: That’s why they spend all those gazillions advertising on TV and in Reader’s Digest etc.

    • Anonymous

      In my opinion, the most frequent visitor in my doctors waiting rooms is the pharma sales rep. Would you agree that there’s something questionable about that? Especially when my doctor refuses to switch me to a perfectly suitable and much cheaper generic medicine? Trust? You must be joking!

  • JenniferL

    “How can pharma earn the trust of patients?”

    Job One:  Come up with a solution for the rapidily disintegrating medication supply system.  No shortages of essential cancer or ER meds.  And come up with a solution FAST!

  • Paul Blakeney

    As always in matters of public communication and information, it looks like necessary to know up front what you as a pharma company intent to and expects from this kind of partnering and interaction.Lots of options arise for such a cooperation and I believe it depends on what to and how, to specify conditions of success for the cooperation.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry to say, it’s not just pharma. It’s insurers, it’s providers, it’s the entire health care system that’s dishonest and  corrupt. It’s the profit motive on steroids. Meanwhile, 50 million Americans are uninsured and another 25 million are underinsured. The consumer has taken a back seat for decades in our broken health care system. Why are we distrustful? Don’t be absurd!

  • victor pavlovic

    Pharma could start telling the truth, years of lies have caught up with them, come clean with the toxins in the vaccines causing disease, and do studies that can be backed up by independent watchdog groups, I guess this will never happen though.

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