Industry Focus: Health & Pharmaceuticals
Pharmaceutical companies are facing a dramatic shift in terms of how, when, and what they communicate with their customer base. Emerging markets are growing rapidly and their consumers are more affluent than ever. The worldwide aging population is creating a powerful consumer group with its own health requirements. Finally, consumers of all ages can now easily log into the Internet to research illness questions and product choices. Some 66 percent of U.S, adults go online to research their conditions, as do more than half of all Europeans.1
All of these changes add up to a competitive environment in which innovative product development and effective communications are critical to building continued revenue.
Keeping the Product Pipeline Full to Keep Revenues Flowing
Directly confronting large pharma companies is the potential loss of an enormous amount of revenue when the patents on their well-established drugs come to an end. Consider the following example: In a study conducted in 2005, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that more than 90 percent of ‘Big Pharma’s’ total pharmaceutical revenues came from medicines that had been on the market for more than five years. When the patents on many of these products were due to expire, this exposed an estimated $157 billion worth of sales to generic erosion.2
With so much of their revenue stream at stake, it is no surprise that pharma companies are working harder than ever to identify and launch new revenue sources. In today’s global marketplace, revenue can come from a variety of directions:
- Innovation – New technologies such as gene-based therapies, nano-carriers, human cell therapies and pharmacogenomics are leading to breakthroughs in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Developing economies – The diseases of the developing world increasingly resemble those of the developed world, and greater affluence is making some countries much more attractive markets.3 Furthermore, these market opportunities are growing.
Pharma would do well to take a cue from the medical device industry, which has achieved success by tailoring its products to meet the unique needs of emerging markets. For example, medical device company Freeplay Energy has designed baby heart monitors intended specifically for use in remote regions, as they are driven by human power. Mindray Medical International, one of China’s biggest medical equipment manufacturers, also specializes in making inexpensive patient monitoring and life support devices.4 This kind of innovation for specific new markets is expected to be the future for pharmaceuticals.
- The aging population – In many countries, particularly the largest consumer health markets, growth in the 65 years and older population is outpacing that of both adults younger than 65 and children aged 14 and under.5 The global population is projected to rise from 6.5 billion in 2005 to 7.6 billion in 2020. It is also aging rapidly; by 2020, about 719.4m people – 9.4 percent of the world’s inhabitants – will be 65 or more, compared with 477.4m (7.3 percent) two years ago.6
Older people typically consume more medicines than younger people; four in five of those aged over 75 take at least one prescription product, while 36 percent take four or more. So the grey factor will boost the need for medicines dramatically.”7 Also, health care for the aging now includes a larger focus on health and wellness products.
The above examples are just a few of the avenues that pharma companies can explore to drive revenue through new products.
The Challenge of Marketing in the New Pharma Marketplace
Pharma companies face a number of challenges in marketing products to today’s diverse consumer markets. First, many of the developing economies may not allow direct marketing between pharmaceutical firms and patients, so companies need to explore other marketing vehicles to work around this obstacle:
- Flyers or pamphlets that are distributed in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries can work well
- Advertising campaigns designed to emulate mobile apps
- The marketing of health programs such as weight management or sports nutrition (in countries where regulators are still opposed to direct pharmaceutical advertising)
Ultimately, the Internet may be the one the best vehicles to attract and retain new customers. Without question, it levels the playing field for pharmaceutical firms of all sizes – in their race to reach a new market.
But the bottom line is effective communication. Regardless of the delivery mechanism, pharma companies must base all their communications on a well-managed life science translation and localization program, while adhering to local regulations.
1 “Pharma 2020: Marketing the Future: Which Path Will You Take? PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009.
2 “Pharma 2020: The Vision: Which Path Will You Take?” PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007.
4 Pharma 2020: Marketing the Future: Which Path Will You Take? PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2009.
5 “Passport: Consumer Health: Trends, Developments and Prospects,” Euromonitor International, June 2012.
6 Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, accessed April 26, 2007.
7 UK Department of Health, “Medicines and Older People: Implementing medicines-related aspects of the NSF for Older People” (March 2001), accessed April 26, 2007.
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