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.
Hospital managers have been guarding their drug budgets with the tenacity of pit-bulls of late, much to the woe of some patients seeking certain treatments. It’s a shame they aren’t quite as motivated on trimming back other expenditure – such as reducing staff sick day bills and increasing productivity – but them’s the breaks.
Under-pressure hospitals in the UK have come up with an intriguing funding solution that, thankfully, we’re likely to be spared. Companies in Ireland have long been battling the problem of cheap parallel imports but I’ll bet you never thought that institutions such as The Royal Surrey County Hospital were among those involved in the trade?
We’ve written previously about the complications involved in rowing back on doctor largess. On the one hand, public and politicians are increasingly suspicious and agitated about money spent on medical customers. Even companies themselves have begun to acknowledge the potential conflict of interest, or at least the perception of it. But what of the customer? It seemed to us that some influential doctors are as keen as ever when it comes to honorariums, educational grants and seats towards the front of the plane. And such dissonance can lead to temptation and very tricky situations. Now, a new study (and a LA Times piece engagingly headlined ‘To heck with the bad publicity! Doctors still dig those drug company freebies’) has confirmed our suspicions in this regard.
Everyone knows that 'everything' is changing in terms of the new marketing opportunities offered by digital technology. However, one of the biggest challenges faced is establishing how individual companies match up to their competitors in terms of digital marketing implementation. Are they ahead or lagging behind? Of course, climbing on board the digital rollercoaster is particularly daunting when it is moving along at a very brisk pace. A starting point for running the rule over your company's digital activity (or lack of it) is Smart Insight's annual Customer Engagement Report which represents a comprehensive on-going summary of evolving digital attitudes and activity.
Once the preserve of the National Geographic, infographics are an excellent way of presenting complex information in an engaging manner and their use as a healthcare communications tool is increasing at pace.
In marketing terms, such illustrations are also useful for attracting the attention of readers who may no longer be engaging with statistics simply because they are already so familiar to them.
For an example of a high-quality infographic from Appature which displays some of the key statistics for pharma companies active on Twitter, click here
What's in a name? Well, quite a lot if you're Facebook and you've become embroiled in a row involving two pharmaceutical companies who share the same name. The prescription medicines market has always been a surprisingly small community with a limited number of companies accounting for a host of different interventions. So the presence of German Merck KGaA and American Merck & Co was always likely to cause some confusion. Now, the German company has gone to court in New York to force Facebook to explain how it happened that its US namesake allegedly took over its page on the social networking site.
Hats off to Rafter's Medical Centres in Dublin who recently became the first GPs we've spotted using the Groupon on-line deals newsletter to grow their business. In what is certainly good news for budget-pummelled consumers, the groups' two practices in Rathmines and Churchtown offered a medical consult, blood test and ECG for the princely sum of €59. The advertisement left us wondering what colleagues in other Dublin primary care centres will make of such an approach to general practice?
The third episode in Amnesty International’s campaign for equal access to healthcare in Ireland represents one of the most disjointed approaches to lobbying and key message delivery yet undertaken. ‘Healthcare Guaranteed: Scourge!’ arrived in your scribe’s inbox from a friend tagged ‘The weirdest health campaign ever’ and that description is probably being kind.