Okay, I get it. Pharmaceutical marketing is hard. And if you don’t believe me, spend four hours at PMCQ U. That’s not a criticism. The speakers were informed, the information was detailed, the challenges were daunting, and finding the solutions? Throughout the morning, I had to keep repeating the words of a pharma veteran, “It’s not rocket science.”
The day was billed as, “Emerging Trends in Pharmaceutical Marketing: Gaining Advantage in a World of Change.” And the line-up of speakers was impressive. First up: Anne Tomalin, president of CanReg and author of numerous regulatory publications. Patient safety is a huge concern inside and outside the industry and the number of safety letters posted with Health Canada has climbed significantly since 2000. The Canadian public as well as the federal and provincial governments are demanding more transparency in the regulatory arena. Negative views about the pharmaceutical industry are increasing in books, movies and TV series. According to Ms Tomalin, there has never been a greater need for the industry to tell its side of the story.
Next, Ali Suleiman, director of research and pharmacy analysis at Brogan Inc., presented the case for a National Formulary versus a National Pharmacare Program. The bottom line? An expensive and difficult-to-control Pharmacare Program is unlikely while a National Formulary will help the high cost of drugs as it limits listings.
David Sancton’s “Managing Brand Issues in a Global Communications Environment” started with a hypothetical wake-up call: your new drug has just killed three people in Germany. Ruling out a midnight flit to Guam, the Hill & Knowlton senior vice president clearly outlined the importance of planning for these little bumps in the road. You need to have all the mechanics in place for dealing with the media: brainstorm potential issues, have messages prepared, run practice scenarios, and… oh yeah!… keep your fingers crossed.
IMS’s Alain Serhan stepped up next to present facts, charts and figures on how to transform your average sales person into a top performer. It’s not a question of which doctors to call but, “What segment-by-segment approach to take?” It was hard to argue with Mr. Serhan’s in-depth research. His radical proposal? A joint effort between sales and marketing will get you closer to your physicians.
For those students looking to explore the topics more deeply, two afternoon workshops were offered. IMS presented “Creating the Optimal Promotion Strategy to Improve Brand Performance,” about which Parkhurst’s Harvey Levine said, “The budget models presented were certainly educational. It would be more interesting to view models on a real life example to see how different scenarios affect the product growth vs. baseline, and most importantly, factor in the return on investment (ROI) with each change to the percentages on the model.”
Meanwhile, after attending Brogan’s “Pricing Strategy” workshop, Bob Ness remarked, "… my, it gets complicated! Pricing between provinces, countries, public versus private payers, the list seems endless. The bottom line on price increases depends on who's paying and like so much else, timing can be everything!"
So, after just one day at PMCQ U, it’s easy for everyone to see that pharmaceutical marketing is not rocket science. It’s much harder.
By Rich Hammond