Harriet Messenger – New technologies are allowing pharmaceutical companies to be in direct contact with patients. How is this transforming the industry and what are the opportunities and the pitfalls?
Felix Jackson – Nothing has really changed with regards to how pharmaceutical companies can interact with their patients. We’ve always been able to provide information for patients. In fact it’s a regulatory requirement that pharmaceutical companies provide patient information. What’s changed is that the digital framework enables them to do this much more conveniently online and much more powerfully. The places that I’m seeing theses changes are places like disease awareness, where pharmaceutical companies are using digital awareness to raise education and information about a certain disease and when to go and seek treatment from a doctor. Also in their support of patients post prescription. So when a patient is prescribed a drug and needs detailed information on that drug, pharmaceutical companies are doing quite a lot of work to provide that information digitally.
HM – And are there pitfalls to this at all?
FJ – Yes, one of the problems with digital, is that it is very global and so traditionally the pharmaceutical companies are regulated on a geographical basis, by country, and traditionally that has been quite easy to control, handing out leaflets in a specific geography. Now with the Internet, if you put something online it can be accessed from all sorts of different parts of the world and that can cause issues. However, I don’t think those problems are that major. If you think it through, it’s about how you are aiming and targeting that activity and if you’re aiming at UK patients and filter websites in the UK then it’s very easy to control, or at least easier than some companies worry about.