This spoof [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd4tugPM83c[/youtube] of the pharma industry and the medicalisation of daily life is promoting a new drug, Despondex, as a “huge step forward in the battle against exhuberance”.
I particularly like the line from one of the patients rescued from excessive cheeriness: “Now Jeff and I can just waste the night sitting on the couch watching a TV show that neither of us enjoy, like a regular couple.” Also got to hand it to the “critics”, who argue that many patients don’t need the drug, that they can get similar results from “natural remedies, such as a diet of corn syrpup, white bread, and a total lack of exercise”.
Jokes aside, the IT revolution is proving a boom for medical marketing or, as the promoters prefer to call it, “education”. (Of course this website from Schering-Plough is purely educational).
When researching this article for Australian Prescriber, I learnt about how the internet is opening up a whole new world of marketing possibilities for pharmaceutical and other health related industries trying to promote product and develop “customer relationships”. It also is enabling companies to develop marketing campaigns that are far more responsive to the needs and interests of their customers – whether these be prescribing doctors, dispensing pharmacists or patients.
As GlaxoSmithKline says on its corporate blog in the USA for a weight loss product, ‘it’s a place for you to have a conversation with us about weight loss issues’.
On the other hand, the net also gives punters like me access to articles describing such practices as companies providing financial incentives for doctors to participate in e-detailing, such as honoraria, product samples, practice tools, and patient education resources.
In Poland, for example, Sanofi-Aventis lent physicians internet-connected hand-held devices which were loaded with clinical support information, drug indexes, abstracts of clinical studies, information from key opinion leaders, and advertising and educational materials. In exchange, the doctors participated in a clinical trial of a Sanofi-Aventis drug and entered anonymous patient data into the device. The company aimed to build relationships with the doctors, to use the device as an advertising medium, and to gather feedback. The company also reported that these doctors then prescribed more of its diabetes products.
Unfortunately, the Australian Prescriber article was published before I came across this link, describing Johnson & Johnson’s digital footprint. The company’s YouTube channel now has over 90 videos – not branded, but patient educational. They have multiple Fecebook pages, geared to special audiences, consumer products and conditions.
Cyberspace is a marketing minefield for the unwary. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the genuine education, and the product-motivated education – or the spoofs and the serious plugs.
This clip [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdpOIaGnzvA[/youtube] of Abraham Lincoln and a talking beaver over a chess board is actually a real ad, promoting an insomnia treatment. No wonder the satirists find plenty of fodder in medical marketing.