PHARMA: DTC WARS, Epsiode IV (with more apologies to George Lucas)

Apologies in advance, THCB goes back into movie mode once again to discuss the somewhat arcane subject of DTC Rx marketing…..

YoderA long time ago in a universe far, far away a bright young survey researcher enrolled with some fellow Jedi warriors to make the universe safe and easier for the pharmaco guild to better target the right citizens of the galaxy with the right message about their wondrous potions. The Jedi warriors wanted to build a great database that would create a Beacon to tell the noble pharmaco guildsmen which of the citizens of the galaxy were responding to their clarion calls, and how they ought to change the sound and direction of those calls.  Their goal was for the the noble pharmaco guild to spread health and prosperity while increasing the general well-being and respecting the sanctity of the galaxians’ information as mandated by the Emperor’s HIPAA army — while cutting down on the spending on those pesky airwave borne messages that ineffectively carried the narrow message far wider than it needed to go and surrounded every spare moment of the great Seers’ nightly network prophecy.

Well, as is common in these stories, this episode opens with our band of Jedi heroes distributed to the four corners of the galaxy. Their mighty Death StarData Base was never properly completed before a cold wind crashing down from the NASDAQ quadrant blew fear and loathing into the heart of the great vulture capital birds, and they ceased flying around the universe distributing their nourishing droppings which had kept the Jedis warm and safe while they built their great i-Beacon. Oh, how the poor Jedis suffered, as did many of their fellow warriors in the freedom loving Dotcomposition and many were forced into exile for lengthy periods, marooned on the tropical beaches of the land with the Faraway Thais.

Indeed while the Jedis endured their exile, the pharmaco guild kept sending out its messages, a little less in some years but again with greater volume in 2003 and 2004, mostly because of the need to let the galaxy celebrex the nexium generation of wonderous potions. But the pharma guild still had to rely on the whispers of Oracles and Monitors to figure out if their message was getting across.

Indeed the Monitor which drew its wisdom from a mere 6,000 voices empaneled across the known galaxy continued to tell the noble pharmaco guild that indeed their clarion calls to the undifferentiated hordes known as the health care consumer were "increasingly believable and likeable". Now the brave pharmaco guild members really believed that sending their messages of health and happiness helped their mission.  And there was some reason to believe that it was true. Indeed the green eyeshaders at the Imperial Senate reported that:

DTC advertising appears to increase prescription drug spending and utilization. Drugs that are promoted directly to consumers often are among the best-selling drugs, and sales for DTC-advertised drugs have increased faster than sales for drugs that are not heavily advertised to consumers. Most of the spending increase for heavily advertised drugs is the result of increased utilization, not price increases. For example, between 1999 and 2000, the number of prescriptions dispensed for the most heavily advertised drugs rose 25 percent, but increased only 4 percent for drugs that were not heavily advertised. Over the same period,prices rose 6 percent for the most heavily advertised drugs and 9 percent for the others. The concentration of DTC spending on a small number of drugs for chronic diseases that are likely to have high sales anyway and the simultaneous promotion of these drugs to physicians may contribute to increased utilization and thereby increase sales of DTC-advertised drugs.

But the pharmaco guildsmen still didn’t know nearly as much about their messages as their friends in the consumer packaged goods guild. Where were their ACNeilsen data on the citizens of the galaxy’s consumption habits? They couldn’t track whether their citizens saw their messages and bought their drugs because they couldn’t link their viewing, activity and usage data together safely?  And where was the data broken down by planet and type of citizen? In marked contrast, they did know much about the potion-prescribing habits of the Shamans who were overwhelmed by visits from their drone detail armies because they were told the answers by the all-knowing Xponents of the IMS.

In the good times perhaps these details didn’t matter very much. For example a group of wise men in an ivory tower quoted by the Oracles at Brandweek (Ed: don’t be fooled by the anti-pharma group hosting it, this is a balanced article) found out this :

A study by Harvard University’s schools of medicine and public health, published in 2003, found that for every 10% increase in DTC
advertising, drug sales rose 1%. That does not sound too impressive until it is translated into hard
cash: Every additional dollar spent on DTC yielded an average of $4.20 in sales.

So perhaps there was no need for the pharmaco guildsmen to be able to link the real uses of their potions in real people to the messages they were sending out; for a wise man once said "if you cast enough mud against a wall some will stick up there".

But then came a pestilence upon the pharmaco guilds. All at once the flood of wondrous potions coming down their great pipeline from the wells on the planet Arandee began to slow. In woe the guildsmen looked at each other and searched hard in the neighboring planets of Bio and Tek. But to no avail, and their creditors and bankers from the iBanker guild over on the Street of The Impassable Barrier, took askance at their new found woes. Many pharmaco guildsmen who’s life had seemed as happy as walk through a field full of daisies in one of the allergy messages found that their bankers, schering a fall in their profits, had mercked down their stock price.
And worse was to come.

Some of the wondrous potions were perhaps not quite as wondrous as the pharmaco guildsmen had first said, and and some heretics declared that the messages of the guild were not to be trusted, and even had hidden the truth from the good citizens of the galaxy in their messages. Still other heretics released satirical songs suggesting that anyone believing the messages was a dumb as a mark at a carnival, and some of the guilds members took fright and began to dismantle some of their detail drones that visited and policed the shamans in every nook of every planet.

Then even the guildsmen’s friends who lived in the Imperial Bureaucracy in the friendly city of Effdeeay suggested that the guildsmen might need to quieten their messages and even told the guildsmen to stop them all together for the mysteriously troubling potions known as Cokstoos. And the great bastions of information across the galaxy began to suggest that the overbearing amount of the messages was counterproductive and might even be beginning to have a wearying effect on the citizens of the galaxy. There were even calls for the messages that surrounded the all knowing Seers delivering their nightly prophecies to be banned altogether, and for the power of persuasion to be used only on the shamans and not to be taken direct to their supplicants. Even the noted wise MackMan who was a good friend of the pharmaco guildsmen suggested that the time had come to change their tune and to understand that they couldn’t escape all culpability with a quickly read disclaimer.

But the lone Jedi survey researcher looked on from his lonely exile in a planet on the far left coast of the galaxy, and his mind wandered.  He wondered if the pharmaco guild, too, might not have been happier if they had been able to better target their messaging. Perhaps they didn’t need to surround the seers with messages about their potions as they prophesied, and perhaps if they hadn’t the prophecies would have not been so nasty about the pharmaco guildsmen quite as often. Perhaps they didn’t need to persuade the not-really sick that they had another dread aliment.  Perhaps instead they needed a way to connect just with the citizens of the galaxy who could truly use their help. Perhaps they could benefit from knowing what those citizens who had problems that they could help were doing in their everyday lives, and how they could target them more effectively, and hand over less money to the Seers’ employers in the process.  The lone Jedi wondered wistfully if the Force might ever return to the DeathStar Data Base, and if it would one day be able to help the right citizens hear the right message from the guildsmen, without pissing off the rest of the universe.  Would the pharmaco guildsmen change their tune, or would they
stubbornly continue on to ultimate humiliation in the next great battle
to come?

The lone Jedi sighed. The Force was weak. He saw no way to recreate the DeathStar Data Base by himself.  But he began to realize that his fellow warriors had been on the cusp of a great thing before they were scattered to the four corners of the galaxy. And he wondered if an alternative universe of anonymity protected one-to-one marketing wouldn’t just have been better for the pharmaco guild, the citizens and the galaxy. Perhaps the prophecy of old would come true and a new Jedi would be found to lead the warriors, but the lone Jedi didn’t see much hope.

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3 replies »

  1. can i publish in my newsletter sometime for the benefit of india pharmacists and med professoin . our publication reaches free of cost