May1

Oncologists to Initiate Discussion Around Value

money stethoscopeEarlier this month a new initiative was announced to encourage oncologists to discuss the price and relative value of cancer medicines with their patients. No, this was not driven by executive fiat as part of the ACA, nor is it the brainchild of an insurance carrier. Instead, it comes from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, or ASCO, the professional organization for oncologists and publisher of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, among other titles.

ASCO has formed working groups that will weigh efficacy, side effects and price to help better define the value of oncology medicines. Initially these groups will look at treatments for advanced lung and prostate cancer and for multiple myeloma, said Richard Schilsky, the group’s chief medical officer.

This comes a little less than a year after Scott Ramsey from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle published a study suggesting that individuals with a cancer diagnosis were 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy compared to a matched control group.

Not unlike hepatitis C, the price of therapy in oncology is a hot topic, as 11 of the 12 cancer drugs approved by the FDA in 2012 were priced at more than $100,000 per year.

To date, ASCO and another group, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), have published treatment guidelines that payers use as the basis for reimbursement coverage of cancer drugs, but these guidelines have been value-agnostic, meaning the price of the drug has had little or nothing to do with strong category recommendations. ASCO’s move could change this.

So how could this impact our clients’ business?

·         Pharma has traditionally had to defend ultra-premium pricing only to payers, who, in many cases, were/are legally obligated to cover the costs, at least for Medicare/Medicaid patients.  Broadening this conversation to include HCPs and patients could affect overall product positioning, messaging and channel strategy.

·         Manufacturers need to rethink how they approach the value section of the AMCP dossier as they submit these to payers as the way payers (public or private) are assessing value will change.  The dossier must also be consistent with value messages to non-payer audiences.

·         With compensation models for oncologists already shifting from “buy and bill” to “pay for quality,” these ASCO value ratings could further aid in the rapid adoption of biosimilars and generic targeted small molecules that will begin hitting the market in the next few years.

·         To the ire of many payers, pharma has been able to mitigate some financial barriers to obtaining therapy through the use of co-pay cards and other assistance programs. If the conversation turns from out-of-pocket costs to “costs to society,” demonstrating meaningful value will be of paramount importance to brands.

·         Dialogue studies in this category suggest sometimes broken dialogue between HCPs, cancer patients, and their caregivers. Layering on a discussion about the value of a drug could add to the confusion. As oncologists experiment with this new value lexicon, it could create an opportunity for brands to take a leadership role in framing the value discussion.

Historically in the US, positioning a drug on “value” has been akin to admitting your brand does not offer a meaningful advantage over existing therapy options. Will this nascent movement result in opportunities for value-based oncology brands? Only time will tell, but in the meantime rethinking how we articulate value is more important than ever.

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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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Also posted in Affordable Care Act, Clients, Ethics, Healthcare Communications, medical affairs, Medical Education, Science, scientific publication, Sunshine Act | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
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, Medical Education, Multi Channel Marketing, Patient Communications, Physician Communications, Social Media, Strategy, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment
Feb21

Choosing Your Road—Transitioning From Bench Science to Specialty Healthcare Communications

road

 

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by…  – Robert Frost

A common question floating around the brains of many researchers is, “Where do I see myself in the future?” It was one that I faced many times throughout my scientific training. The well-travelled path of continuing in academic research is the one that is traditionally followed. But if that’s not for you, what is it like transitioning away from research and into medical/healthcare communications? After years of being a “bench scientist,” the transition to working in an alternative career can be a little scary. As researchers, it may feel like we’re not prepared for a career outside of what we know, but our training actually provides us with a thorough, deep understanding of science and a lot of transferable skills. These skills, including the abilities to learn quickly, problem-solve, integrate information from varied and disparate sources, and communicate and advocate concepts and ideas, can be assets for both the company we work for and the clients we work with. Additionally, it can be really exciting to work on the “other side” of the biomedical industry—taking highly complex scientific information and communicating it to stakeholders in simple and meaningful ways. When working in research, as a natural function of the job we tend to focus very specifically on a disease state and even on a particular pathway or phenomenon within that disease state. As a member of Science and Health Strategy within Specialty Marketing at Ogilvy CommonHealth, I have had the opportunity to touch many aspects of a product’s lifecycle, including brand identity and development, HCP marketing, direct-to-patient marketing, medical advertising and promotion, and scientific communications. Through this career path, I have been able to expand my scientific expertise from a background in virology and immunology to one that encompasses a wide array of therapeutic areas, including oncology. Additionally, through this career path, I’ve been learning more about the multiple channels of communicating scientific/medical information. If you realize that you want to move away from academia or research but don’t know how you can transition, here are some ways the skills we learned as scientists, combined with our scientific knowledge, can apply in the medical/healthcare communications field: 1. Problem solving: As researchers, at some point or another we’ve had to MacGyver our way into how to do an experiment for the all-consuming paper or thesis. It may have involved trying to trouble-shoot an experiment, figuring out how to borrow and extend reagents because research funding was low, or convincing a company that their product was faulty and they needed to return the thousands of dollars you wasted (not to mention time) because of said product. (Yes this has happened, and it was definitely a “no really, it’s not me, it’s you” and “I need a DeLorean” type of situation). When it comes to alternative careers, problems will still be a fact of life. Your ability to recognize the issue, assess the situation, and come up with a solution will be a great asset. 2. Communicating and advocating concepts and ideas: With the number of times we’ve had to give seminars, poster presentations, write papers and abstracts, and present our data at meetings, you’d think we’d have the communication thing down cold. While we have a lot of experience in the art of communicating our ideas and research to a high-science audience, we often forget that they actually aren’t our only audience. An important piece of advice I received when I was a second-year graduate student was to learn to be able to tell people what you do in just a few sentences. Nobody knows what you do better than you do, so this is the best and sometimes most complicated place to start. In a career in healthcare communications, it’s important to be able to communicate high-science information in an easy-to-understand manner. In this career, you’re writing messages for doctors, nurses, patients, and caregivers, so you have a very varied audience in terms of scientific knowledge and expertise. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication and public speaking skills. 3. Integrating information from disparate sources and critically analyzing data: These two skills (which actually encompass many other skills as well) are particularly important for medical/healthcare communications. In this field, one of your jobs is to pick out useful nuggets of information that can help promote your client’s product and position it appropriately in the market, while remembering that fair balance and ethics are critical. Being able to critically analyze data and integrate information can also be useful when strategically comparing your product against the others in the marketplace. When looking for the right opportunity, make sure you find a position and company whose goals and mission match your skills and passions. It’s also important to look for an employer that values its employees having diverse backgrounds so that it can develop solid teams capable of different points of view with a high degree of depth in their respective fields. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is one such company that embraces this, and as a result is able to develop unique solutions based on a strong scientific platform communicated across various channels. As a scientist who previously worked with other scientists, it’s been an incredible learning and working experience to be able to function on teams comprised of people of all different backgrounds—from art to copy to project management—and converge all of our talents to provide our clients with marketing, advertising and strategic solutions that are unique and smart. Knowing yourself and what you can offer are the first steps to choosing a path that is beyond the traditional…don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com. Please allow 24 hours for response.

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Jan21

Marketing Performance Mis-measurement: Mistaking Strategy for Objective

graph io blogIf you ever wondered why your monthly campaign tracker or reports show stellar results but your brand is underperforming in the marketplace, you may be measuring (and celebrating) the wrong leading metrics. You may be mistaking strategy for outcomes, thus celebrating the wrong “successes.” This piece elaborates on this measurement error and provides suggestions for setting things right.

Strategy is not objective

A common trap analysts, marketers, and advertisers fall into is mistaking strategy for outcome. Strategy is a means to an end, the selection of options intended to ensure the achievement of specific goals or objectives. With regard to marketing, this implies the focus on specific targets, and selection of channels, tactics, and messages intended to enhance the likelihood of achieving some desired outcomes. The effectiveness of a strategy is therefore not in the execution, but how well it delivers on the outcome. In other words, a good strategy (or execution) is deemed successful, not because it is implemented, but because it delivers on the objectives and goals.

With few exceptions, most marketers, planners, and strategists understand the difference between objectives, strategy, and plan. But when it comes to measurement, this understanding seems to blur, disappear or become less important. Just to be clear, you should measure strategy, but do so in order to understand how you have executed the strategy. This should not be mistaken as an indication of marketing success.

For instance, a common objective for launch brands is to achieve a certain level of awareness among HCPs and convince them to try the product. A decent strategy could be a multichannel marketing approach that combines digital and a few offline tactics with a specific message, cadence, and level of investment against a target HCP specialty. Going by this illustration, if the execution of the strategy is flawless, the measures will show timely delivery of the messages, exposure of audience to the message, and good interactions with the respective channels. This is a successful execution of the intended strategy.

But, this same successful strategy could result in 35% awareness compared to the targeted awareness and preference of 60%. In other words, the strategy was well executed but failed to deliver the desired business outcome. It’s no surprise when marketers’ dashboards show very impressive movements in engagements and interactions, while their brands are getting clobbered in the market.

Measure strategy, but know what you are measuring is executional accountability

Executional accountability is measuring how well you are executing your strategy so that insights form the basis for adjusting strategy and evaluating the quality of execution. This is also the primary role of the execution team—clients that have tried to separate executional accountability in the spirit of fox and chick coop concerns are making a mistake. Executional evaluation must be quickly available to the execution team, to ensure a seamless understanding and feedback loop. This feedback is important to both marketers and their agency/consultants; it is in the best interest of the advertiser to understand how well the strategy is being executed. This proximity provides an immediate feedback loop for learning and improvement. Even better, incorporating leading indicators of desired outcomes makes a highly responsive and rapid cycle optimization. That way, consultants also understand what strategy works when they take on a different client engagement. That is the concept of data-driven or data-integrated marketing.

Outcomes, on the other hand, are usually empirical measures and difficult to fudge—eg, sales, market share, awareness. Unlike campaign tracking, these outcomes metrics are fine to assign to independent parties for measurement

Consultants and execution teams who take accountability seriously must track strategy as well as leading indicators of success (outcomes). These help evaluate quality of execution (strategy tracking) as well as quality of the strategy (leading indicators of objectives).

Below are examples of the difference between strategy metrics and outcomes. Specifics will depend on your marketing or campaign objectives.

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At Ogilvy, our proprietary Fusion methodology, the rigorous methodical approach for communications strategy development and evaluation, also provides the basis for identifying the right execution as well as outcomes metrics. The Scorecard from Fusion empowers the integrated team of strategists, planners, accounts, creative, and analyst with clarity of metrics that help evaluate strategy and outcomes.

In summary

  • Measure objectives as the ultimate measures of success, not the attainment of strategy
  • Measure strategy and tactics, but understand these are strategy measures. You may be successful with your strategy execution but fail to deliver the expected outcomes
  • Execution teams should be responsible for, or have almost seamless access to, execution trackers, as this prevents the teams from “flying blind”
  • Execution teams should ensure they include leading indicators in their tracking and analysis efforts, as this helps evaluate strategy’s effectiveness in delivering outcomes
  • Get third parties to evaluate outcomes. Typically, these skillsets rarely reside with execution partners and the measures are hard to fudge. Rx trends, awareness penetration, market share, revenue, patients base, formulary preference—are all key outcomes measures that are difficult to fudge

Happy data-driven marketing in 2014! May your strategy deliver on the intended.

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Dec12

How Fantasy Football Helps You Make Better Marketing Decisions

thumbnailWe’re in the middle of December, and there are a few notable events on the horizon. With Thanksgiving and an early Hanukkah season behind us, and of course Christmas around the corner, the holidays are almost top-of-mind.

That is, unless you play fantasy football. If you do, then you know the fantasy football playoffs are about to get underway—and the value of analytics to your marketing efforts has never been more apparent than right now.

Wait…marketing? Weren’t we just talking fantasy football? Yes, we were, but if you’re headed to the playoffs and a shot at championship glory, you know it’s largely based on the quantifiable research and analysis you’ve done along the way.

If you do them right, fantasy football and marketing have a lot in common. For example, both require you to formulate a strategy and identify KPIs (key performance indicators). These critical analytics methodologies will inform your ongoing decisions in both marketing and fantasy football.

In fantasy football, you’ll use predictive modeling in the form of mock drafts, regression analysis to gauge free-agent pickups and trade offers, and define success benchmarks for both individual players and your team. In other words, you’ll construct a solid analytics foundation that will be a key component to your success.

This same approach should be taken when it comes to clients and their brands. Acronyms including ADP (average draft position), FPG (fantasy points per game) and PPR (point per reception) are often hot topics amongst fantasy footballers. Marketing metrics such as CPL (cost per lead), CR (conversion rate) and ROAS (return on ad spend) are talking points amongst anyone with input on marketing strategy.

Fantasy football success depends upon your ability to assess each player’s value relative to their position and put together the strongest lineup you can. Your brand’s success is no different. With an effective analytics approach as the basis, the optimal marketing mix can be achieved.

Enjoy the holidays and good luck in the playoffs! And if you’re not into football, fantasy baseball starts in a few months. Get out your calculators.

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Dec5

What the X?*# Is a Planner Anyway?

thumbnail imageIt’s a question that many planning folk get, especially from those who are new to the agency, and potentially to the planning function itself.

In its modern-day form, planning has evolved into a multifaceted functional set of skills that not every agency has, but should consider.

To start, planners come from a variety of backgrounds, from account to creative, and from a number of different industries (not just advertising!). It doesn’t really take any special background to be a planner, just a sense of advocacy, intuition, creativity, and, of course, curiosity.

That’s because planners do A LOT of research—in fact that might be an underestimate. They pretty much have the pulse of the customer at all times, whether hot or cold, happy or not. Planners get to observe, and then react based on those observations.

Nowadays planners get involved in almost everything that agencies do, from business and financial functions to account management to creative development. We support our teams with the insights that will drive the business forward and hopefully engage our customers to make decisions.

If you are thinking about having a planner on board and want to know how they can add value to your accounts, here are three ways they may be able to help:

1)   Story telling. If you are not sure the best way to relate to customers, then get to know them first. Planners can help you do this by plotting out the paths along which customers engage with brands, telling their story, and determining the best point of entry for that engagement. When a planner is ready to talk about this, listen. It may mean the difference between an epic brand, and one that targets the wrong person (one who inevitably has no reason to consider your brand).

2)   Creative fuel. Planners will get people motivated (in a meaningful way). Whether they are out there buying your product, or inside the agency walls mulling over their ideas on the fifth pot of coffee, planners can inspire everyone to go for that jumping-off point and get excited about brands to produce on-target, off-the-charts creative. They can also help advocate for the agency (and the team) if an idea has merit but had received some resistance from either clients or the higher-ups.

3)   Simple logic and reasoning. Planners don’t make snap judgment calls. They do everything they can to build credibility, and that is based on nothing other than carefully planned research. Every one of their insights has merit based on research, and they are experts at “filling in the gaps” when further clarification and interpretation is needed.

Case in point

To put all of this into perspective, here is a recent example of how planning takes shape on a brand, and what the good outcomes can be if you decide to bring a planner into the mix.

Our client was on the fence about conducting additional research for their brand. They were hoping that a round of qualitative would be enough to determine a concept winner.

But lo and behold, with just qualitative research alone it was difficult to determine an overall winner against their current campaign. Even though it went through 4 different cities, qualitative research will sometimes produce mixed results, especially when you’re testing concepts to gauge the customer’s emotional response.

The client wasn’t really getting enough out of the numbers to determine the best-ranked out of the mix. So with some encouragement from planning, and an insightful summary of the research, the client decided to move ahead with quantitative, based on the fact that they needed to know, without bias, what the numbers outcome would be. Additionally more research allowed for more refinement, taking key learnings and drawing more insights from them.

And that’s how it’s done. Planners come and go on accounts, but one thing is for sure—their insights will stay with brands, as customers continue to engage, and hopefully transform their behaviors.

So next time the customer does something out of the ordinary, chances are an extraordinary planner had something to do with it, somewhere along the line.

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Apr25

When Will Pharmaceutical Companies Embrace Behavioral Retargeting to Drive Adherence?

Shopping KeyPicture this: You visit a website, add something to your shopping cart, but abandon the transaction. Maybe you are distracted or decide to shop around to get the best deal.

The next day, you’re on a different website. Suddenly an ad pops up on your screen…for that item you had in the shopping cart the day before. In your mind you’re thinking, “Wow, maybe this ad is an omen that I should buy that item?”

You’ll be relieved to learn that the ad is not an omen. It’s just “behavioral retargeting,” one of the tools that a smart marketer is leveraging to capture your attention. They want you back at their site to complete the purchase.

Digital channels can leverage relevancy (based on action and exposure) to deliver highly motivating advertising. If it works well for consumer products, how would this work for pharmaceutical brands?

The Web as a Research Tool
The Internet is used by consumers to compare prices and features. What we find online often influences both online and offline purchasing decisions. In the early days of the Internet, consumers were leery of making significant purchases online and would compare prices on the web then go to a brick-and-mortar store to make their purchase. With improved mobile technology, consumers now see and touch products in stores, only to make the purchase online. Many consumers are now willing to make major purchases online.

The prescription drug buying process is different. Some consumers see advertising for lifestyle drugs on TV and in print, go online for additional information, and ask their doctor for a prescription. If their doctor agrees, they may receive a prescription. A pharmaceutical website for a prescription drug may play a role in initial patient-doctor discussion, but it can really play a much more significant role in influencing medication adherence.

Behavioral Retargeting to Influence Good Behavior
We see many prescription drugs with elaborate, multichannel medication adherence programs that often have minimal impact on the bottom line. The reasons for this are twofold.

  1. Programs that are dependent on patients signing up tend to have very limited reach against the patient base.
  2. They often attract patients who are adherent, so there is little opportunity to increase sales. We also see programs where enrollment is driven by activating a savings card—but too often patients are unaware they joined the program and don’t engage with the communications they receive.

What if we used behavioral retargeting to increase awareness of compliance programs? Imagine if retargeting didn’t just apply to shoes and baby clothes, but also encouraged medication adherence.

Behavioral retargeting provides the ability to extend reach and deliver highly relevant adherence messages contextually, then bring consumers back to your site for deeper content. It provides an additional channel to get key adherence messages to customers who might not sign up for a program.

Then again, even if we can do it, we may not want to deliver behavioral retargeting. After all, some patients have conditions that they’d rather keep private. They may not appreciate a reminder message from a pharma company that manifests as a banner ad on their favorite website. If this is the case, such issues can easily be addressed with a simple opt-out that prevents future retargeting from the ad server.

These days, behavioral retargeting is closely associated with advanced ecommerce websites. Looking forward, it will probably become another tool for communicating with patients and healthcare professionals. Before that happens, industry thought leaders need to think carefully about how patient health information is used and retargeted across different websites, channels, and platforms.

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Apr18

Sharpening Up the Industry’s Smartest Teams

GraphOgilvy CommonHealth Worldwide (OCHWW) purchases a unique and expansive range of syndicated research, currently providing access to over 30 different sources. In January, the management, oversight and strategic deployment of these properties were aggregated within the Global Business Intelligence and Integration (GBII) Skill Center led by industry veteran David Chapman.

The GBII Skill Center is dedicated to helping staff know what the research assets are and learn how to gain access to the incredible depth of resources that exist at OCHWW. The key point here is that this depth of resources allows Planners, Account Management and Creative to gain insights into the market and brand that help develop winning, innovative ideas. Starting from facts allows them to speak with authority and awe the client with new perspectives on how to drive brand growth.

The GBII team continually evaluates and analyzes the properties we buy or can access now through Ogilvy, trying to assure the best data and the broadest reach of global and US markets, disease states, therapeutic categories, audiences (both professional and consumer), channel, digital usage/preference, and more.

One example is GlobalData’s Pharma eTrack, which combines much of the information found in Datamonitor, Pharmaprojects, ClinicalTrials.gov, The Pink Sheet, and news aggregators such as FierceBiotech and more, in one simple-to-use site. Information is available by molecule, by compound, by drug, by category, by pipeline, by disease state, by company and by country…including comprehensive US, global and/or regional in-depth reports on key disease states.

Some of the others include:

  • MARS (Multimedia Audience Research Systems) for OTC/DTC data
  • eMarketer  and Compete – online behavior and digital research
  • Manhattan Research – HCP online usage and habits
  • Yankelovich Monitor – consumer research
  • IMS/NDTI – prescribing and diagnosis information

To socialize the inventory of our syndicated research properties and the “power users” who provide guidance and interpretation, staff can access all this information in the Intelligence Center site on the organization’s secure intranet.

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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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