Oct17

At Face Value

At Face Value ImageThe recent 60 Minutes episode on the “eye popping” cost of cancer drugs painted pharmaceutical manufacturers and community oncologists as greedy scoundrels only interested in making huge profits at the expense of desperate cancer patients.

Reporter Lesley Stahl keyed in on a common target in the debate over rising healthcare costs—drug price, and a new term being used by oncologists: “financial toxicity.”  The program singled out ziv-aflibercept (Sanofi-Aventis) as a high-priced agent for metastatic colorectal cancer that cut its price in half only after three doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering wrote a negative op-ed article in the New York Times suggesting that manufacturers determine drug prices similar to how one shops in a Turkish bizarre.

To emphasize the industry’s greed, the producers highlighted imatinib (Novartis), and although they acknowledged it was indeed a true advance in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia when it was approved, they chose to focus only on how the price has more than tripled over the past decade despite the availability of several newer, more effective treatment options.

Media coverage like this, along with ongoing policy discussions, continue to focus on whether the cost of new cancer therapies is putting urgently needed, life-saving therapy out of the reach of patients.

The Personal Side

Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide supports a number of organizations, including a number focused on cancer and oncology patients. One such nonprofit is the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), an organization founded in 1953 and dedicated to harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to conquer cancer. Through their efforts, and the efforts of other institutions like them, a promising new class of therapy called immune-oncology (IO) has emerged.

Think about that—over six decades of research, funding, clinical trials, and education has led to some of today’s most promising IO agents. I imagine there are a lot of lost bets along the way; despite the millions of dollars that go into the research and development of new cancer treatments, only 13% of all compounds in development are ever approved for use in patients.1

But through the perseverance, commitment and investment of many, including the pharmaceutical manufacturers, what today is a reality would not have been possible.

I had the opportunity to attend CRI’s annual event and had the pleasure of meeting many post doc fellows and researchers, and I can assure you the value they saw in their work was not the profit their research would have for their companies, but the life-saving impact it would have for patients urgently awaiting new treatments.

One such person I met at the CRI event was “Sue,” a young woman recently married and living with a rare form of cancer (angiosarcoma) diagnosed in less than 300 people per year. She told me about how appreciative she was of the funding from CRI, manufacturers, and industry to the work she was doing and the hope that she’ll one day play a role in helping cure people like herself living with a deadly form of cancer.

Which made me think… If manufacturers and nonprofit organizations like CRI did not sustain the commitment and investment (in the billions) in search of new therapies, including areas of rare disease, what would become of patients like Sue, without the combined efforts and commitment of these institutions?

The Flip Side

So today, patients are being asked to absorb a larger portion of their prescription costs as a result of more aggressive payer cost management and growing pressure on healthcare budgets overall.

However, it’s important to recognize the overall savings to the system cannot be recognized in terms of savings for a patient individually. And the true value of cancer medicines goes well beyond the cost of a particular drug.

R&D of novel treatments has the potential to not only help patients today, but also provide longer-term value by investing in therapies for tomorrow. By limiting our view to a short-term cost savings approach, the potential to develop new, innovative treatment approaches, like IO, may never occur.

So when considering the price of drugs, remember this reflects the cost and risk of medicine development, the complexity inherent in treating cancer, as well as value to the patient, the healthcare system, and to society. So don’t take price at face value!

The Rest of the Story

So while the producers of 60 Minutes focused solely on the “devastating” side effect of cancer (the bill), a far worse side effect would be if manufacturers chose to cut the amount (billions) they now invest at risk to commercialize new therapies. This would be especially detrimental in rare disease areas like angiosarcoma, where the investment will outweigh the profit—and ultimately the patient would have the most to lose.

Through an environment and policy framework incentivizing and rewarding research, a healthy competitive environment will pave the way for new advances so desperately needed, and everyone benefits.

One thing is for certain, the path forward should focus on continued (albeit targeted) investments, improving access to these important oncolytic advances, development of biosimilars, and for crying out loud, doing a better job communicating the value proposition (aka, demonstrate product value) of emerging therapies to providers, payers AND patients.

Reference: 1. DiMasi A, Reichert JM, Feldman L, Malins A. Clinical approval success rates for investigational cancer drugs. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2013;9(13):329-335.

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Jul16

“It’s not a tumor!” Cyberchondria and the Diagnoses That Spawn From It

2287994It’s 7 am; I’ve just awoken. My eyes are adjusting and I’m sprawled in my bed. My mind is not coordinated enough to move my body. Man, I am exhausted, I think. How is it only Thursday? My head kinda hurts. Good God I have to pee. I could probably snooze for like fifteen more minutes, if I shower quickly. Seriously, my head hurts. Right in my left temple. I must have slept wrong. I don’t remember hitting my head or anything. I sit up abruptly. Oh Lord now I’m dizzy. I’m dizzy and I have a sharp pain in my temple. Holy crap what if it’s a tumor, or an aneurism. When I did those brain cancer interviews last year they all said they woke up with headaches. This is that exact same situation. Where’s my iPhone? How do you spell meningioma, two “n”s? No, one “n.” Thanks Google. Okay WebMD…signs and symptoms…yup, here it is. Headache: check. Dizziness: check. Weakness in arms and legs: now that you mention it, I can barely hold this phone it feels so heavy. Blurred vision: that one’s probably next. Yup. It’s definitely a meningioma. I should call my dad. Just tell him I love him.

But just as Arnold said, it’s not a tumor. And while that example might be a tad exaggerated, I’ve certainly had this type of half-awake, neurotic, cyberchondria once or twice in my life. Though the above situation was more likely caused by one too many glasses of wine and a refusal to admit to a hangover.

Nevertheless, the concept of self-diagnosis is an ever-growing phenomenon in this digital age. According to a survey conducted by The Pew Research Center, over 35% of Americans in 2012 had gone online to diagnose themselves, and more than a third never confirmed that diagnosis with a doctor. What’s worse: some 30% of self-diagnosed women have admitted to purchasing and consuming medication for their supposed illness, without a consultation. That’s the part that shocks me. Sure, I might convince myself I have a pet-dander allergy, but that does not mean I trust my diagnostic abilities enough to assault my leg up with an EpiPen.

But it does happen. And those working in the healthcare industry appear to be the worst culprits—after all, we live and breathe this stuff; it shouldn’t be hard to tell if we have chronic migraines, or insomnia, or endocarditis, right? Our increased level of knowledge mixed with a splash of arrogance is just enough to convince us that there is little a PCP’s gonna tell us that we don’t already know.

And while the hyperbolic, often terminal, self-diagnoses are more my style, physicians say they are more concerned with the prevalence of under-diagnosis among systematic Googlers—as we all know, convincing oneself that a rash is just a rash, or numbness is just an innocent side effect can have irreparable effects.

Now, I’m a huge proponent of self-education and using today’s technology to our advantage—in fact, I think it sparks productive dialogue when information is brought into the doctor’s office—but as cliché as it sounds, I cannot emphasize enough the need for a professional diagnostic assessment. Trust me; the $15 copay is worth it.

Think of it this way: your doctor is your agency of record, but for some reason, you’ve decided to do your own brand website, aka diagnosis. We all know from AOR experience that your doctor is going to take one look at that diagnosis and say, “Damn, this is a mess; I wish they’d just paid me to do it.”

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May9

How to Personalize Non-Personal Promotion—From a Medical Education Perspective

doc conferenceBy Sean Hartigan and Eileen Gutschmidt

When you think of Personal Promotion (PP) and Non-Personal Promotion (NPP), traditional channels likely come to mind such as Reps carrying iPads, online and offline media advertising, and marketing campaigns populated with a mix of branded tactics that can include print, digital, telephony, and convention booth engagement. Medical education, on the other, probably isn’t something you would automatically think of.

Yes, there are notable differences in execution between medical marketing and medical education, but the channels used in the former can also be applied to the latter—via unbranded, disease state awareness programs designed to underscore unmet needs in a category, while priming the market for a launch and all of the “traditional” branded promotion mentioned above.

NPP, as expressed through integrated multichannel, is even more critical today for both medical marketing AND medical education. Especially when you consider that it is becoming harder and harder to engage with healthcare provider audiences given evolving market conditions. Many institutions won’t permit Reps or Medical Science Liaisons the opportunity to meet with the physicians in their network for face-to-face dialogue. Fewer physicians have time to attend local and regional meetings, and national congresses. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act requires physicians to invest more time collaborating with each other and their patients to achieve improved outcomes. And many physicians would rather get their information from non-pharma sources and can easily do so online, and on their own time through their mobile devices.

Distill all of this down and it hopefully becomes clear that NPP should play a major role in medical education. But that’s not enough. NPP needs to be informed by customer needs and preferences. It needs to be all about the end user. Not us. Not our clients. Not their brands. The only way to truly connect with busy audiences is to be relevant—and personalized NPP can help!

It all comes down to a few simple steps:

  1. Know your audience: who they are, what they need, what they want, and where they go to get it (ie, research and segmentation)
  2. Provide content  that fits the bill (Content Strategy: aka, audit and assess what you have, make more based on customer interest, need, and where they are in their learning continuum)
  3. Come up with a channel plan (Integrated MCM/Digital and Media Strategy) based on your audiences’ attitudes and behaviors
  4. Launch your program, measure it, share out response data to interested stakeholders (that’s analytics and closed-loop marketing)
  5. Revise and refresh based on response (customer-centric content and channel optimization)

Of course this is a highly simplified broad brushstroke of the approach. But it can be applied to any traditional medical education initiative. And you should tap into our experts at OCHWW in these attendant disciplines to help you. A lot of effort and expertise goes into developing a smart program that drives the kinds of results you and your clients are looking for.

Let’s use an example: Think about your activities at medical congresses. Are you conducting a symposium there? A product theatre? If so, how are you driving targeted audiences to your event?

This is where NPP can help. Build out an ecosystem around your congress engagement, populated with appropriate drivers such as email, direct mail, door drops at local hotels, onsite posters at the congress that trigger augmented reality video clips, onsite geo-fencing alerts that remind congress visitors about your symposia, and so on. You should also consider pull-through tactics post engagement, such as emails that can speak to attendees and non-attendees differently: “Here’s a summary of your congress experience,”  or, “Sorry you missed the symposia—here’s a synopsis of the event.”

Obviously, your event  content and activities should be informed by customer need and feedback. To make the symposium a success it should be about something that healthcare audiences would find useful and want to hear about. And, you should use your ability to connect with audiences at congresses to encourage opt-in for CRM. That is, registration for ongoing and improved customized service based on user needs and wants.

Can you use a KOL to help you get their attention in driver tactics and at the symposia? Do it. Thought-leader driven programs achieve a better success metric. Can you package your one congress meeting into a larger “umbrella program” to help frame an improved value prop and keep their interest over time? Of course you can. It all depends on whether it makes sense for your audience, your brand, and your customer (and maybe your budget).

Interested in learning more? Visit your friendly neighborhood Medical Education staffer and we’d be glad to spend time to understand your brand and customer needs to come up with a plan that works for you. Remember, we’re personalizing NPP, so this isn’t a cut and paste. But we, and our partners in the Relationship Marketing Center of Excellence, can be your glue that brings it all together!

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Also posted in content marketing, Content Strategy, CRM, Customer Relationship Marketing, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Multi Channel Marketing, Non-personal Promotion, positioning, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Mar4

Let the Sunshine (Act) In

5116469For many of us in the healthcare industry, the advent of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has loomed large and ominous. The mere mention conjures up visions of significant changes in the way we work with healthcare providers (HCPs), in addition to endless data collection and reporting. On March 31, 2014, healthcare manufacturers are required to submit their first annual federal reports; these reports will include data captured from August 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. By September 30, 2014, CMS will publically disclose the information on their website. This regulation is associated with the Affordable Care Act, and as we have come to learn, there may be changes, revisions, or postponements to current guidance on reporting and timing of data review and corrections. Nevertheless, the industry needs to be prepared and many of our clients have been adapting for some time.

So to date, do we really know how this regulation will transform our corner of the healthcare geography? Are we prepared to adapt and innovate?

From a medical education and scientific publication perspective, we have already seen substantial changes in the way our clients collaborate with HCPs.  For example, in December of 2013, GSK announced that the company will begin a process that will effectively stop direct payments to HCPs for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences. To fill this gap, it appears the company may expand its focus on developing multichannel capability to support the dissemination of information about its products and relevant disease states to healthcare professionals.

The effects of the Sunshine Act are also noticeable in the scientific publication realm. Due to the transparency requirements, academic research institutions are once again modifying their guidelines and tightening their restrictions on working with industry on clinical trials and subsequent data publication to avoid the perception of and potential for conflicts of interest. These restrictions also pertain to the development of disease-state articles that update standards of care and provide best practice approaches for HCPs and allied health professionals.

Clearly the Sunshine Act is meant to shine the light of transparency and public disclosure. But it also has the potential to hamper scientific exchange, which is the lifeblood of effective medical communications.

How do we as an industry respond? My vote is to adapt along with our clients and lead and encourage the innovation and continued delivery of robust scientific exchange. How will you respond?

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Feb26

Digital Trends Impacting US Healthcare – Infographic

In the past year, digital innovations have brought about new markets and channels for digital health interactions. This infographic is a visual mapping of the technologies and innovations which are already playing a key role in shaping the future of healthcare and the experiences and journeys which surround it.

Of course the ACA is affecting healthcare coverage, but it is also affecting our healthcare experiences by placing increased importance on and driving more frequent interactions with NPs, PAs, and Pharmacists. Additionally, more priority has shifted to consumers to educate themselves and take responsibility for their own health, especially when combined with our growing culture of social media and trust networks, and recent draft guidance from the FDA. Video remains hot, but the trending has shifted to the length of videos patients are consuming, increasing its relevance to pharmaceutical marketers. Mobile and tablets continue to grow rapidly, with and quantified self driving deeper engagement though apps, not just web. Last, but certainly not least, EHR is poised to enter the next phase of meaningful use, setting the stage for a platform shake-out as certification requirements evolve to provide more and deeper data sets to systems of connected health as providers continue to on-board.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Technology is evolving fast, and healthcare, believe it or not, is keeping pace and even leading the charge on many fronts. Spurred on by government mandates and initiatives, innovative organizations ranging from Google and Apple to Silicon Valley startups like Practice Fusion are quickly carrying the ball forward, sometimes struggling to keep pace with consumer expectations of today’s technology. It’s these digital healthcare innovations which have set the trends affecting us today, and will carry us forward to tomorrow.

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Also posted in adherence, advertising, Data, Digital, Digital Advertising, Healthcare Communications, Infographics, Managed Care, Marketing, Media, Multi Channel Marketing, Patient Communications, Physician Communications, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
Sep17

Blended Learning in Medical Education: Five Top Tips

Leigh van Wyk thumbnailAs we move into an age where “digital by default” becomes the maxim we live and work by, how do we ensure that we continue to deliver successful medical education programmes that not only meet the business needs of our clients but also the learning needs of the end-user?

The digital age is bringing about a shift in learning theory and practices. Learning is becoming more flexible, less formal and available on demand. At the same time, technology is driving change in the Medical Education industry. The expectations of both our clients and end-users are changing. Pharma clients want far-reaching educational programmes delivered on slimmer budgets. End-users want personalised learning delivered in the moment.

At Ogilvy Healthworld Med Ed, we are utilising the latest blended learning principles to design outcomes-based educational programmes that offer a mix of online digital and mobile self-paced learning and social learning to suit learning requirements.

Five tips to deliver simple, focused and blended learning:

1. Mind the gap

Do your homework and ensure both the client’s business needs and the end-user’s knowledge gap are fully understood (remember they might not be the same!). Ask yourself, what do end-users already know and what do they need to know?

2. Determine your metrics

Think about what a successful blended learning programme will look like and decide what metrics you would like to measure when the project is initiated. Data starts the conversation about effectiveness, so the more information captured regarding uptake, usability, content and functionality the more we can understand how the programme can be improved upon and how it should evolve

3. The evolving end-user experience

By focusing on the evolving learning needs of the end-user, we move away from a product-focused approach to a user-centric approach. Understand your end-user—how they learn, how they behave, what they want from a learning programme.

4. Personalise the learning experience

Blended learning is flexible and recognises that as individuals we all like to learn in different ways. Programmes should be designed to include audio, text and visual content to ensure that all learning styles are addressed and the user remains engaged.

5. When it comes to learning, less is more

When it comes to developing content for online learning, less is more. Unnecessary text and fancy interactivity for the sake of it overloads memory, detracting from comprehension. In traditional self-directed eLearning courses, simple techniques such as chunking information, bullet points and key messages can aid retention. Visually rich and engaging eLearning courses can be supplemented by resources such as slide compendiums or clinical papers to ensure the end-user can access all the information they need to support their learning.

As the digital age closes in, isn’t it time to move beyond traditional educational programmes and embrace the learning theory and technology that will allow us to deliver effective blended learning? Isn’t it time to evolve?

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Jul31

The Shift in Medical Meeting Promotion

kristine thumbnailThe 2008 conversation:

“I want all the billboards along the highway, 150 taxi tops, and 10 dioramas at the airport. Also, see if you can advertise in the bins where you place your shoes to be screened. I want my brand to be everywhere! Let’s also give out tissue boxes, pens and ice cream to everyone who visits the booth!”

The 2013 conversation:

“Let’s place an ad in the daily newspaper…and we will allow U.S. physicians to speak to a rep at our booth.”

The shift in medical meeting promotion has become evident over the past few years. In addition to extensive internal MLR reviews, many medical societies now require prescreening of media tactics, creative, messaging, location/distance from the exhibit hall, etc. Clients are unsure of what is acceptable and wary of pushing the promotional limits. With a large portion of U.S. meetings attracting international physicians, how do marketers target their U.S. physician base? Gone are the days of the big branded blitz.

If these hurdles weren’t enough, on August 1st, the long-delayed regulations of the Sunshine Act will go into effect. The Sunshine Act requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, biologicals, and medical suppliers covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Medicaid to report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) all payments or transfers of value to physicians, teaching hospitals, and other healthcare providers. This includes expenses related to the meetings industry, including travel, lodging, and food and beverage. Medical meetings will encounter the largest scrutiny under the Sunshine Act.

Although drug makers already follow PhRMA guidelines (est. 2009), the Sunshine Act will impose fines for failing to properly track and report on all meeting spending. The CMS will begin posting the information in a public database on its website in the fall of 2014. Physicians will be part of the public database, easily searchable for any “transfer of value” from a pharmaceutical company. This concerns many physicians, as it might give the perception that they have been “bought.”

There are 98,000 meetings in the U.S. each year that are for the continuing education of physicians. In addition to manufacturers and their agencies, outside industries such as hotels, restaurants, medical societies and publishers may feel the impact. Final rules for the Sunshine Act provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to be complicated and interpretive for drug companies and agencies.

The future will tell—but could the Sunshine Act shift the paradigm in physician engagement toward further digital promotion, and not live events? Will there be more involvement with the localized meetings, decreasing the need for large-scale venues?

What will the 2014 conversation be?

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May28

How to Sip From an Information Fire Hose: Taking Stock of the Therapeutic Marketplace

Fire Hose ThumbnailIn an effort to describe the intellectual environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), former MIT President Jerome Wiesner once remarked that “getting an education at MIT is like taking a sip from a fire hose.”

For those of us working in the field of medicine, this perspective is far from a pithy witticism. The scope of the informational fire hose in science is truly staggering. For example, according to summaries posted by the National Library of Medicine, new “In Progress” records expand daily by 3,000 to 12,000 citations. While not broken down by scientific discipline, these data underscore the scope of the challenge to understand a rapidly changing clinical marketplace. Additionally, these data don’t begin to address the broad expanse of observations by the media, blogosphere, and social media.

So how do we at Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Education (OCHME) sip from an informational fire hose? Our scientific team takes a multidisciplinary approach:

  • Manage the scientific literature – The National Library of Medicine’s search engine allows a user to program keywords into daily automated searches that are emailed to us each morning
  • Leverage capabilities of Internet search engines – Many search engines will alert a user to a particular word string “as it happens.” So the moment a keyword is used on the Internet, we are made aware and can act on it
  • Build close intellectual relationships with clients and clinicians – At every opportunity, OCHME shares our perspectives on recent developments in a therapeutic area with our clients and clinicians. As the relationship matures, the exchange of information becomes a two-way street. Before long, this becomes a key source of new information for us
  • Embrace nontraditional sources – We routinely monitor blogs and conduct Twitter searches for perspectives that support our projects
  • Continue to rely on traditional information channels: Sources such as eMarketer, Forrester, or Kantar Sources & Interactions continue to offer high intrinsic value, allowing OCHME to construct insightful snapshots of a therapeutic marketplace

Using the above techniques, OCHME is frequently the first source of timely strategic information that is shared with our clients. In addition, this comprehensive approach allows OCHME to identify novel data and cutting-edge perspectives that keep our medical content topical, insightful, and exciting.

Still thirsty? The next round is on OCHME. Cheers!

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Mar15

Expanding Universe: Centers of Excellence

Expanding UniverseThe success of most pharmaceutical products and medical devices is in part based on the expertise of learned physicians in designing and conducting clinical trials, interpretation of data from these trials, and eventually in educating healthcare providers. Historically, these esteemed physicians are the most recognized names at the highest-ranked medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals. More recently, a new trend has begun to emerge: the rise and expansion of private research centers that are quickly rivaling their traditional academic counterparts. This phenomenon is a consequence of two significant developments over the past few decades.

Since the 1980s, industry funding for biomedical research by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers has surpassed the investment by the federal government. PhRMA estimates that member companies in 2011 invested $50 billion in the discovery and development of drugs. This amount, even without counting the investment by medical device manufacturers, is significantly higher than the $31 billion spent by the National Institutes of Health.

A second development is an increase in media and legislative scrutiny of relationships between industry and physicians. Many media stories brought questionable interactions into the spotlight, and legislators at state and federal levels began to put rules in place to increase transparency and minimize perceived undue influence of industry on healthcare providers. As the industry developed guidelines for interactions with healthcare providers, academic institutions began implementing their own rules limiting interactions.

The dwindling federal research dollars and ever stricter institutional rules are beginning to drive some investigators to switch their affiliations to private health organizations or start their own research centers. Early indications are that the quality of research at these nontraditional research centers is likely to be as good as that performed at major medical centers. In fact, a 2012 article by researchers from Harvard Medical School reported that “academic and nonacademic sites are equally effective in their ability to identify and retain appropriate study participants.” If the current trends continue, we can expect more industry-funded clinical research to be conducted at these private research facilities.

Many of the physicians at these centers are already well-known in their respective therapeutic areas due to their prior research and publications. Their personal reputations may translate into their new centers’ prestige, as they continue their contributions through congress presentations and peer-reviewed publications. In time, younger researchers from these centers may indeed grow into future thought leaders, just as those from academic research centers have done historically.

Emergence of these potential new “centers of excellence” presents opportunities and challenges for the manufacturers and for communication agencies. As the nonacademic research centers are managed by investigators who have expertise and interest in working with industry in various capacities as investigators, advisors, and educators, they may be more open to collaboration than the experts at academic institutions. They will also continue to maintain high ethical standards to protect their own reputations among their peers. However, there may be a need for the industry to educate them regarding the latest guidelines issued by PhRMA or AdvaMed, and the constantly evolving regulations at the federal and state levels, since these centers may lack the compliance infrastructure of the major academic centers. As communicators who facilitate interactions among industry, researchers, practitioners, and patients, it behooves us to keep an eye on this trend to better serve our clients.

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Nov29

Escalating Scientific Credibility of OTC Products

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs have long been the mainstay of consumers seeking immediate relief from what ails them. Go to the corner pharmacy, pick up some medication along with some staples like tissues, go home and take as directed. These drugs are readily available to us because the FDA deemed them safe enough for consumers to judge on their own what to take and when. Somehow, ready availability, safety, and lack of physician oversight has translated to a perception of being less effective, lacking in clinical studies, and/or being beneath a doctor’s notice. After all, by the time we go to the doctor, we want something really powerful, right?

The fact is these products often have a great deal of scientific distinction. And there has been precedent for targeting physicians as advocates. Cough/cold products, dental care, and analgesics are three categories where this has particularly been the case. Tylenol, for example, built its reputation—and its brand—on the value of hospital endorsement. Listerine became the No. 1 mouth rinse by gaining the ADA Seal for plaque and gingivitis and promoting this to dentists. Heck, even Trident gum managed to build sales on the basis of dental recommendations for helping to avoid cavities by mere omission of sugar as an ingredient.

While these examples are 30 years old, we are seeing a resurgence in this type of marketing approach as more manufacturers of OTC products seek out medical education support to bolster their standing.  Typically this involves development of sophisticated mechanism-of-action (MOA) stories, often accompanied by MOA animations; undertaking clinical trials to demonstrate significant effectiveness (since safety is a given), speed of onset, longer duration, etc; data publication both at congresses and in peer-reviewed journals to join the ranks of “more serious” Rx drugs; scientific platform development to establish competitive differentiation from other OTCs and often parity with therapeutic modalities; and thought leader engagement to build advocacy and recommendations.

The fact is we are having no difficulty recruiting thought leaders into these activities. Even specialists have taken an interest and participated with the energy and enthusiasm typically devoted to Rx products. Physicians take greater comfort in adding OTCs to their consideration set with patients because it’s been proven to them that these products hold their own scientifically and clinically.

So the next time you feel your OTC product growth is stagnating, consider following the proven path of elevating credibility and distinction through science and advocacy.

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