retailer eDrugSearch.com. In fact, Cary
Byrd, the company’s president, founded
the pharmacy on the principal that consumers are often distrustful of the drugs
they find online. The Web site is meant
to be an affordable safe haven. Therefore,
the site only offers partnerships with
pharmacies that have passed a 10-point
“I’m simply giving people the means
to learn more and to educate themselves
by sharing their stories and experiences
with others,” says Byrd. “Our site gives
members access to FDA data, to the latest
industry and drug-specific news and to a
network of consumers who have similar
health-related interests and concerns.”
What are some of the benefits of marketing digitally in the pharmaceutical
space? It’s cost effective, immediate and
accessible. Moreover, nearly 60 percent
of physicians in the United States use a
PDA to reference clinical information.
Marketers were already using this
medium as a way to push continuing
medical education courses (CMEs), and
now pharmaceutical companies are using
the device to send relevant medical news
alerts. This is effective target marketing
for pharmaceuticals that have previously
collected data — medical specialty, geography, insurance coverage plans — from
each physician’s prescription.
The initial focus of Progenic’s Relistor DR
campaign was product education through the
Web, journals, conferences and sales force.
The Next Generation of Viral
Woburn, Mass.-based InfoMedics conducts interactive surveys to gather information on how patients are using medications. InfoMedics is hired by pharmaceutical companies to find out how successful they are in getting doctors to prescribe their drugs, measuring the effectiveness on the actual patients and the
retention rate for treatments. Intermediary companies like InfoMedics could be the wave
of the DR future: the creation of a three-way communication line that sends viral marketing
from drug companies to physicians — and on to patients.
“If you think about it, doctors only hear back from patients when there is a problem,” says
Paul LeVine, vice president of analytic services at InfoMedics. “You’re not going to call back
if you’ve had some success, you’d just move on and the doctor would never know.”
After InfoMedics creates a patient report for the pharmaceutical company (blinded
information per HIPAA laws), the manufacturers can then use that information to market
directly to doctors based on the success rate. LeVine says that the reports also have had a
significant impact on the amount of prescriptions that doctors write (a copy is also given to
Though InfoMedics does some advertising, writes articles for trade publications and
arranges for speaking engagements, it relies heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. But the
company knows that the future of marketing is online community and will soon launch a networking site, Mypatientjourney.com.
“It’s a very efficient means of getting through to people — you can have a broad reach
for much less than a big ad campaign, so it makes economic sense,” says LeVine. “The ability to bond communities and take advantage of relative anonymity is really important.”
On the site, patients will be able to talk about their experience with a drug without revealing too much personal information. Also, with permission from the patient, there will be an
opportunity for the conversation to be bi-directional with a physician, further opening the
lines of communication between these two groups.
Progenics, through Wyeth, is using
direct-to-physician marketing through
digital means, such as search engine optimization (SEO), as well as E-detailing of
healthcare workers that have shown interest and physicians currently prescribing
drugs for OIC. Malone says the switch to
digital is partly a monetary factor. As sales
forces decrease, digital allows pharmaceuticals to gain an edge on releasing the
latest trends in a timely manner.
Perhaps the most important digital
channel is the Internet. Many companies
are investing heavily in the Web for both
acquisition and retention of consumers.
The use of the Internet can range from
posting educational and promotional
content, such as sites like WebMD, Revolution Health and RealAge, to those leveraging You Tube and community sites to
promote disease diagnoses and treatment.
For a Web-based business like
eDrugSearch.com, the burden of successful DR
marketing can often be tied to the quality of the site. Byrd says the team works
to create a wealth of information, social
networking features, a blog and an easy
to navigate site in order to get visitors to
come back and spend more time.
“I think when you’re an Internet retailer, virtually everything you do online
should be geared to generate a direct response,” says Byrd. This is definitely true
for eDrugSearch.com, which focuses primarily on SEO so that people searching
for popular medications will find the site
and stay to buy. “Later this year, we will
begin an aggressive advertising program,
which will include affiliate marketing,
pay-per-click advertising and banner ads,”