Hurrah for those brave individuals across the water who are planning to become involved in a mass “overdose” involving homeopathic remedies this week. Doubtless some suicide patient groups will be up in arms about this eye-catching campaign but we love its powerfully subtle messaging.
Henry Ford once commented that if he had asked his customers what they wanted, they’d have told him to make me a faster horse. We adopt a more subdued tone but are also firm believers in the premium offered by original thinking. Of course, when you stumble on that dream idea, it’s vital to remember that the clever bit is optimising it to its fullest potential.
And so we have been monitoring an idea pioneered by the marketing department at Burger King in Spain. They pinpointed the persistent popularity amongst footballers celebrating goals by pulling their jerseys over their heads. The practice was 'invented' in the 1990's by silver-haired Italian striker Fabrizio Ravenelli. And so when Burger King agreed a one-year sponsorship with a side in Spain's top league, they cleverly negotiated printing a second logo inside the team's shirts. A two-for-one, if we're to borrow a phrase from community pharmacy.
Readers with an eye on trends will know that there has been rep force carnage in the United States lately. The reasons for this are alarmingly familiar - physicians' weariness with sales calls combined with the sheer overabundance of reps detailing each drug makers' various products. Worse still, American medical schools and teaching hospitals have begun unveiling restrictive new rules for pharma rep visits. It has all meant there is a growing appetite for solutions and new strategies.
Don’t tell your kids but Nemo could soon be on his way to the lab. Or one of his equally colourful pals at least. Harvard researchers have that zebrafish offer an economical and efficient animal model to test new compounds for sleep therapy. The first job they are (ahem) lined up for is to take a lead role in the development of new drugs for the €5 billion market, replacing traditional drug-screening methodologies.
I once chased a well-meaning cardiologist for a clinical article for a year and a half. During this time he got a new job, moved house and opened a private practice…but never did get round to writing up my 900 words. Whatever your experiences with scribe medics, just beware that ‘ghostwriting’ is coming under increasing scrutiny.
I hate my washing machine. It’s reliable, boasts a worthy energy rating and is excellent for cleaning clothes. But no-one at the shop told me this little appliance would spend its entire life nagging me to empty it at the end of every cycle. It doesn’t help that its escalating reminder is one of the most annoying high-pitched beeps known to man. Forgive me then if I roll my eyes skyward as I deliver news that researchers in the US are now testing nagging pill bottles. The ‘GlowCap’ (pictured) is a high-tech top that fits on to a standard pill container and emits a pulsing orange light when it’s time to take your medicine. That’s clever enough, but what happens if you ignore that reminder is pretty astonishing.
With increasing focus on the activities of pharmaceutical sales reps, what would Sir Henry have made of Vladimir Putin’s plans to ban his foot soldiers from Russian hospitals? Damned poor show, what? Several well-known drug companies have identified the Russian market (alongside China) as prime real estate in terms of business expansion. However, anyone doing business in roubles will have to tackle the rather uncompromising views of the Russian Prime Minister.
Putin recently vowed: “We should get rid of these so-called pharmaceuticals representatives working in medical institutions.” He also decried the “clearly abnormal type of interaction” between medicine manufacturers (mostly foreign) and parts of the Russian medical community.
A fascinating new book reveals how the impressively moustachioed pharma pioneer Sir Henry Wellcome helped create the role of the modern medical sales representative. His company, who subsequently morphed into what is now GSK, was the first to visit doctors in hospitals and favoured ‘gentlemanly’ individuals who wore frock coats, silk hats and had sample bags of real crocodile skin.
Times have certainly changed, with stilettos and Mont Blanc document cases now more the fashion, but many of Wellcome’s innovations – samples, engaging advertisements in medical journals and promotional stands at medical meetings – remain part of marketing activity more than a hundred years on. And company representatives still strive to project a “scientific” image just as Wellcome vowed they should.
If you’ve been to the cinema of late you may have spotted trailers for a new release called Extraordinary Measures. It stars Harrison Ford as a doctor and researcher risking all to try and help the parents of a child with an extremely rare illness and looks like a must-see for anyone involved in the marketing of medicines.
It’s been a very long time – 18 years in fact – since we’ve had a movie that didn’t portray drug developers as the devil incarnate. So here’s your starter for ten: what has Extraordinary Measure got in common with the magical Lorenzo’s Oil that it doesn’t share the host of ‘evil pharma’ films released since 1992 – Deep Blue Sea, The Fugitive, Mission Impossible II and The Constant Gardener to name but a few?
How closely do you look at competitor advertisements in the Irish medical press, packed as they are with strolling, kite-flying, bicycling, smiling individuals of a certain age? Well two companies haven’t looked closely enough if a tip-off received by your correspondent is to be believed.