May 2nd, 2016 | Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill | Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Biogen's Desperate & Possibly Illegal Attempt to Improve Tecfidera Sales By Reaching Out to Consumers and Patients Directly

It seems that $8.3 Bn in worldwide sales of Biogen's MS drug Tecfidera is not enough to satisfy Biogen's investor overlords.

For the first quarter of 2016 Tecfidera brought in sales of $744 million. Analysts expected $750 million -- close, but no cigar! Even more disconcerting to investors is the fact that compared to last quarter, Tecfidera sales are down 5% (see here).

This mystifies Biogen marketers who hyped the fact that not so long ago, social media mentions predicted great sales of Tecfidera (read, for example, "Using Social Media as an Early Predictor of a New Drug's Market Share"). Biogen CEO George Scangos told investors “We were surprised... by the low awareness among patients of Tecfidera,” despite social media mentions.

To correct that, Biogen went direct to consumers and patients. STATnews, for example, reports that Biogen has gone "big with its first TV ad blitz" for Tecfidera. "It has bought nearly $39 million worth of TV airtime over the past seven months, vaulting Tecfidera into the top 20 most advertised drugs on US television for that period, according to the media research firm," reports STATnews (read "Inside Biogen's Tecfidera 'Ad Blitz'").

But in its attempt to heighten Tecfidera awareness, Biogen may have mis-stepped and even crossed the line into illegal activity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Did Pharma Really Spend $3 Billion on Internet Advertising in 2015?

According to FiercePharma Marketing, "Digital ad spending last year was just shy of $60 billion, with pharma accounting for about $3 billion of that, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual ad revenue report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers" (read "Mobile Ad Spending Up, But Pharma's Share Remains Small"). Here's the data from IAB/PWC from which this conclusion was drawn:

Click on image for an enlarged view.

Without looking at the devil in the details, you might be impressed by that number considering that according to Kantar Media, pharma industry spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising (excluding Internet DTC spending) totaled $5.4 billion in 2015 (read "Annual Spending on Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising Ties an All-Time High"). That would mean that pharma spent a total of $8.4 billion in 2015 and 36% of that was devoted to digital/Internet.

But the devil in the details puts the kibosh on that conclusion.

The 3 D's of Digital Pharma Marketing: Discover, Design, Deliver

The Wharton School, Google and McKinsey & Company have teamed up to write a new e-book entitled Pharma 3D: Rewriting the script for marketing in the digital age, which you can download here.

The book notes that while the world has experienced an "explosion of health-oriented digital activity," there has been a simultaneous  decline in pharma growth.

"This new reality has many implications for the pharmaceutical industry overall, particularly for commercial strategies," say the authors.

"Historic mixes of advertising in traditional media combined with heavy salesforce coverage and 'push' messaging are insufficient," say the authors. "While each of those tactics remains relevant, today’s commercial mix should reflect the fact that people are now viewing digital channels close to 50% of the time, and, even more importantly, that those people seek real engagement in regards to their care."

Let's examine those premises in more detail.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"Desperate Turds" Print Ad Added to Gallery of Drug Advertising Mascots

Are you constipated? Well, if it's caused by your opioid pain medication, you might need prescription Movantik (read "Cam Newton Was Not the Only One 'Blocked' During Super Bowl 50").But if it's just run of the mill "occasional constipation," you might try an over-the-counter product such as Dulcolax Laxative by Boehringer Ingelheim.

I recently came across a Dulcolax print ad,  which ran in Singapore newspapers and bus shelters and which was on a 2014 shortlist under the outdoor category at Lions Health (read "Pharma Advertising is So Bad It Has No Big Winner at Cannes Lions Health 2014").

Creative advertising people have labeled the ad "Desperate Turds."

Click on image for an enlarged view.
Yep! It's a view of turds (Scheisse) trapped inside an A-hole! The tagline -- along with a photo of a Dulcolax Laxative package -- is expressed in a turd's thought balloon: “Only you can set them free”.

As is often the case with OTC drug ads, the "Desperate Turds" ad misrepresents the effectiveness of Dulcolax Laxative to treat occasional constipation.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

PhRMA Intern Retrospective: Drug News Stories

Principle #14 of the final version of PhRMA’s Guiding Principles on Direct to Consumer Advertising about Prescription Medicines, which applies to both TV and print DTC ads, states in part:

"DTC television and print advertising should be designed to achieve a balanced presentation of both the benefits and the risks associated with the advertised prescription medicine. Specifically, risks and safety information, including the substance of relevant boxed warnings, should be presented with reasonably comparable prominence to the benefit information, in a clear, conspicuous and neutral manner, and without distraction from the content."

Most drug stories reported in the press or on TV are based on press releases prepared by the PR agency that represents the pharma company that markets the drug. There are no PhRMA guidelines for drug press releases although they are regulated by the FDA and should include fair balance to comply with FDA regulations. Reporters, however, do not have to include that information in articles they write based on information in press releases.

Back in 2006, when PhRMA Intern was active, she noticed an ad that she thought violated Principle #14. Here's the story...

Should the pharmaceutical industry develop voluntary guidelines for PR to parallel the guidelines it has developed for DTC advertising? See survey results below...
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