In his blog today, Seth Godin directly discusses, well, us. Here's what he wrote:

Drug companies have coined an acronym for the marketing they do that
bypasses doctors: DTC. Direct to consumer. Those happy face ads you see
in Readers Digest and other magazines, or the erectile dysfunction ads
during the Super Bowl.

What they are totally unprepared for, and what your organization may be unprepared for is Direct from consumer.

If
someone takes your medicine and gets sick, do you want to hear from
them, or would you rather have them blog about it or make a video?

Most drug company marketers instantly say, "we want to hear from them!"

Really?

Buisnessman at keyboard

Well, no. We want them to do both. It depends on how you define "sick."

If someone takes a pharma company's drug, and something goes seriously wrong — something that implicates the drug's safety, efficacy or both, after they discuss it with their physician, we want them to contact our clients. Serious problems aren't funny, and they' can be a lot more serious than a simply dissatisfied customer. If there's something going on out there, our clients want to know about it fast.

This is particularly true in light of this week's Supreme Court ruling against Wyeth, in which the Court held that FDA approval does not shield drug manufacturers for liability in patient lawsuits alleging inadequate warnings. Given this, wanting to know of problems patients are experiencing is just common sense.

By an enormous margin, however, "sick" usually means "side effects." 

For a lot of drugs, side effects simply come with the territory. Depending on the condition, there is no such thing as a drug without side effects, which can range from next to nothing to profound. When discussing side effects, even more than informing the drug's manufacturer, we want patients to inform each other.

The absolute backbone of any pharmaceutical company's brand is trust. The patient has to trust that the drug is safe, that it will does what it is supposed to, and that there will be no surprises, either good ones or bad ones. Every patient is informed in advance, beginning with the advertising, about possible side effects and reactions. This alone makes pharmaceutical marketing unique, and pharmaceutical companies uniquely responsible. How many times have you seen a magazine ad for a toy that mentioned a possible choking hazard? Pharma companies, because of the unique impact of their product, have a much higher threshold for transparency than consumer products companies. It's the basis of the trust between the drug company and the patient.

And ideally, that transparency extends to a discussion of side effects. It's extraordinarily helpful for a patient to know that others have experienced similar side effects, that they can be managed, or at least minimized, and that he or she isn't alone. So, ideally, patients will share their experiences with others, teach them and learn from them, and in doing that, strengthen the bond of trust that every patient taking a pharmaceutical product depends on.

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