Eggs, meet baskets

By September 14, 2008Uncategorized

A few weeks ago my uncle sent me the piece below.It's from an organization called the Alliance for Retired Americans, a Washington lobbying group that, as its name implies, advocates on behalf of the elderly and retired. Whether or not this piece is a factually accurate prediction, it's pretty clear that at least some of what it describes is going to happen:

Democrats Hope to Target Drug Companies in 2009 

Democrats are planning a series of curbs on the pharmaceutical industry in 2009, the political newspaperRoll Call reported this week.  Party leaders and staff on Capitol Hill are preparing an ambitious agenda should the Democrats win the White House and increase their majorities in the both the House and Senate. Roll Call said
that this would include requiring Medicare to negotiate bulk discounts
on drug prices, allow re-importation of drugs from Canada, limit direct marketing
to consumers, and expand companies' legal liability for their
products.  In the current session of Congress, the House adopted a bill
on Medicare price negotiation, but it was blocked in the Senate by a
Republican filibuster and a White House veto threat.  Senator Barack Obama voted in favor of the bill, while Senator John McCain did not vote.  "Seniors have a lot riding on the 2008 elections," said Edward F. Coyle,
Executive Director of the Alliance.  "Victories by the right candidates
could put an end to drug companies' hold on many policymakers."

As pharma marketers, how do we respond to this? Should we all be worried? Should we be planning "scenarios" for alternative marketing? Should we make outreach and develop guidelines (again) around DTC and make it what it could be — the most responsible form of advertising it is, supporting and educating patients. Should we, could we, must we…

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My answer? It's a cliche, but hope for the best, plan for the worst. If this comes to pass, RM is suddenly going to be absolutely critical. Copmanies with weak or nonexistent RM programs, or those that have let them languish, are suddenly going to find themselves at a real, serious disadvantage. They've effectively put every single marketing egg they have in one basket, which is not a good idea in the bst of times, and could be an incredibly bad one if all this comes to pass.

What does this means specifically?

  • Build your database as aggressively as you can. A lot of companies eventually just put the development of their databaes on a kind of automatic pilot — content with mediocre, or "acceptable" results. If, under President Obama, DTC becomes a less-viable option, the database is suddenly going to become very important.
  • Make sure your patient need/access programs are well funded and used. These programs are like aircraft carriers — you can't just turn them on a dime. It takes time and planning to bring them up to speed. Begin now.
  • Plan to change your DTC TV to adherence messaging. Regulation of DTC will almost certainly be focused on what's perceived as hard-sell acquisition marketing. By switching to an adherence focus, this can be managed without gutting your DTC mechanism.
  • Start using multi-channel Relationship Marketing with a strong emphasis on service not sales.The multi-channel part is essential. We are increasingly living in a world where consumers get their information through many channels. This means pharma, too.

LIke it or not, ready for it or not, fair or not, change is almost certainly coming. Being prepared is simply a variant on the idea of not putting all of your eggs in one marketing basket. Start moving them now.

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