• SERVICES
  • INDUSTRIES
  • PERSPECTIVES
  • ABOUT
  • ENGAGE

GSK

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

IRA: Are Patients Winning at the Cost of the US Pharma Sectoral Growth?

The market reaction to the US Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is mostly mixed. It is expected to change the pharma industry dynamics in terms of the competitive positioning and product pricing of those companies projected to be negatively impacted by the IRA. The answer to whether the IRA will be able to curb rising healthcare costs in the USA lies in the legislation’s on-the-ground application.

IRA to decrease prescription drug prices via a four-pronged strategy

Prices of prescription drugs in the USA are 2.78 times higher than in 33 other countries analyzed in a 2024 report published by RAND, a public policy think tank.

In pursuit of reducing healthcare costs in the USA, the Biden government passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022. One of the major goals of the act includes the reduction of prices of prescription drugs.

This is expected to be achieved through a four-pronged strategy, the mainstay of which involves the US federal government negotiating the prices of some high-priced prescription drugs covered under Medicare.

The second prong includes pharmaceutical firms paying a rebate to Medicare if they raise the price of prescription medicines covered under Medicare by a rate that is higher than the inflation rate.

The monthly cost of insulin for Medicare patients is capped at US$35, as the third prong.

The fourth prong aims to reduce prescription drug prices by capping the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare Part D patients at US$4,000 in 2024 and US$2,000 in 2025.

IRA Are Patients Winning at the Cost of the US Pharma Sectoral Growth by EOS Intelligence

IRA Are Patients Winning at the Cost of the US Pharma Sectoral Growth by EOS Intelligence

Pharma companies to suffer more due to IRA compared to projected government savings

Under the IRA, large pharmaceutical companies, defined as those with over US$1 billion in net profits, are required to pay a minimum of 15% annual taxes, a financial burden on these companies. Analysts predict that the annual revenue from corporate taxes could be to the tune of US$222 billion. Furthermore, the IRA is expected to save over US$287 billion for ten years from the roll-out, as per the estimates of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Apart from the increased financial burden on some companies, experts foresee potential adverse impact on several pharmaceutical companies based in the USA to a considerable extent.

The pharma companies witnessing the least to no impact are the ones with their primary operations based outside the USA, biologics or large molecule drug producers, and the ones that do not receive government funding for R&D. This is because of the differing timelines under IRA for negotiating the prices of biologics and small molecules. Biologics’ timeline is 11 years after FDA approval, while small molecule drugs are eligible after 7 years. Therefore, Medicare negotiations will begin four years earlier for a small molecule drug that has received approval at the same time as a large molecule biologic drug.

Apart from these adverse effects, such as differential treatment of small molecule drugs compared to biologics under Medicare price negotiation timelines, there are some other negative impacts on the overall US pharma industry, such as diminishing competition among generic drug producers, decreased discovery of new treatments, and new uses of existing drugs.

IRA to affect the revenues of top pharma companies surely but variably

There are differing viewpoints regarding the impact of IRA on pharmaceutical companies’ revenue. One group of experts suggests that Medicare prescription drug negotiations under the IRA will depend on the expiration of the drug’s patent. Other experts expressed their opinion that irrespective of when a drug loses exclusivity, a significant threat to drug revenues comes from the competition entering the market and not from lower negotiated drug prices.

The first group of experts states that lower negotiated prices in 2026 are expected to have a lower impact on medicines projected to witness revenue loss owing to patent expiry around the same time. One such example of a drug losing its exclusivity in the USA in 2025 is Stelara by Janssen Biotech approved for treating psoriasis.

In contrast, pharma companies producing medicines that are expected to witness competition from their generic counterparts after 2026 are projected to lose revenue owing to lower negotiated prices even before the drugs lose exclusivity. However, some companies’ revenue will be affected more than others.

Medicare price negotiations to hit revenues of some drugmakers drastically

The pharma industry’s revenue is expected to decrease by 2% due to the new measures brought about by the IRA, as per a 2022 report by Morningstar, a US financial services firm. Among the companies that will be highly affected are Novo Nordisk, Gilead, Bristol Myers Squibb, AbbVie, and AstraZeneca. In contrast, others, such as Pfizer, Merck, Roche, and Novartis, will not be as much impacted by Medicare price negotiations.

Some 15% of global branded drug sales come from Medicare in the USA, as per Morningstar estimates. Therefore, the impact of the IRA on pharmaceutical companies depends on their reliance on Medicare sales, price adjustments, high-cost specialized drugs, and extended patent protection.

Medicare prescription drug negotiations are projected to impact pharma companies the most among all IRA measures, although this impact might not be uniform across the players. On the other hand, Medicare negotiations are projected to save the government approximately US$100 billion through 2031. The pharma companies facing the highest revenue losses include Novo Nordisk, Gilead, and AstraZeneca.

When the Medicare price negotiation measures start to roll out in 2026, two drugs of Novo Nordisk, namely, Ozempic and Rybelsus, that are approved to treat type 2 diabetes, are expected to witness an 8% decline in their projected revenue through 2031, as per Morningstar. Gilead’s Biktarvy, which treats HIV-1 infections, is expected to be subject to price negotiation in 2027 and thereby face a projected revenue loss of 7% through 2031. On similar lines, Calquence (to treat mantle cell lymphoma) and Tagrisso (to treat non-small cell lung cancer) drugs of AstraZeneca are expected to lose 6% revenues through 2031 owing to Medicare price negotiations.

In contrast, considering the existing portfolios, Pfizer, Merck, Bristol Myers, and BioMarin are expected to witness no revenue loss due to Medicare negotiations.

Medicare inflation caps to impact major pharma companies negatively

Another important IRA measure is Medicare inflation caps. This measure involves drug producers paying penalties for increasing drug prices beyond the inflation rate. It is expected to result in US$62 billion in government savings through 2031.

Around March 2023, the US federal government, along with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), released a list of 27 drugs whose prices were increased by their manufacturers at a higher rate than the inflation rate. This list included AbbVie’s Humira (to treat Crohn’s Disease) and Astellas Pharma’s and Seagen’s Padcev (to treat urothelial cancer). Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer are among other impacted companies by Medicare inflation caps. Pfizer had the most drugs on the list, with a total of five.

Bristol Myers Squibb is one of the pharma companies that is expected to be highly impacted by Medicare inflation caps. The company’s drugs, such as Eliquis (to treat or prevent blood clots), Opdivo (to treat melanoma), Orencia (to treat rheumatoid arthritis), and Yervoy (to treat various cancer types) are among the medicines that are expected to face revenue loss owing to inflation caps. Other drugs on the list include Novo Nordisk’s drugs such as Novolog and Levemir (both for type 1 diabetes) and Victoza (for type 2 diabetes), Johnson & Johnson’s drugs such as Imbruvica (to treat certain cancers) and Xarelto (to treat or prevent blood clots), along with Novartis’s Sandostatin (for severe diarrhea and flushing related to metastatic carcinoid tumors).

In contrast, Merck is not expected to face any revenue loss due to inflation caps, while GSK, Regeneron, Roche, and Sanofi are projected to witness minimal revenue loss as these companies have not raised the prices of their drugs beyond the inflation rate.

IRA to potentially reduce competition from generics

According to the IRA, following the price negotiations of some of the branded drugs, manufacturers of the generic versions of such drugs will have less scope to charge a reduced price for those drugs. This would disincentivize the generic drug producers to manufacture generic versions of the already low-priced branded drugs.

EOS Perspective

The IRA represents a substantial change in the US legislation that strives to make healthcare more affordable to Americans through increased access to more reasonably priced prescription medicines.

However, IRA can be expected to affect small-molecule drugmakers more negatively than biologics. Moreover, some pharmaceutical companies are projected to feel the pinch more than others in terms of revenue losses.

Companies such as Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, and the pharmaceutical association PhRMA have filed lawsuits against some provisions of the IRA, stating that they are unconstitutional. Bristol Myers Squibb and J&J are planning to appeal after the US court dismissed the IRA lawsuits. These pharmaceutical companies are trying to find ways to circumvent the negative impact of the legislation.

IRA is also expected to negatively impact R&D and medical innovation. This is evident from the fact that biopharma companies have reduced their R&D efforts in the neuroscience space, especially since a lot of development work in this space involves small-molecule drugs. Moreover, as IRA exempts only one orphan drug from price negotiation, investments in R&D for orphan drugs are likely to get deprioritized. Many pharmaceutical companies are reconsidering their R&D planning and investment strategies to counter the effect of IRA.

IRA is clearly not a win-win strategy for all stakeholders. Pharmaceutical companies are mostly at the losing end, while patients could be winners. Considering all the positives and negatives of IRA, only time will tell the actual impact of the legislation on the overall pharmaceutical industry.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

A New Era of Vaccines – Will It Solve the African Malaria Issue?

Malaria, a treatable and preventable yet potentially fatal disease, is yesterday’s news in many developed nations. But this disease is still wreaking havoc in several developing countries, including the African continent. With the release of a new vaccine, many medical experts are examining whether this initiative will solve Africa’s malaria problem.

Africa’s crippling malaria burden has severe and lasting implications

Malaria is still a severe health issue in several countries, with the African region accounting for the lion’s share of the cases. WHO reported that in 2022, there were 249 million malaria cases, of which 94% were concentrated in Africa. Similarly, the number of deaths due to malaria was estimated to be 608,000, with 95% in Africa.

In the African region, about 78% of malaria-related deaths occurred in children under the age of five. Approximately half of malaria-related deaths were recorded in four African nations, namely Mozambique (4.2%), Uganda (5.1%), Nigeria (26.8%), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.3%).

Malaria is mainly treated using artemisinin-based medicines. However, according to the WHO, partial artemisinin resistance is becoming a challenge in treating the disease in areas such as Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Eritrea. This has made developing a new solution to the malaria issue even more paramount.

New vaccines offer hope for eradicating malaria

In a significant effort to eradicate malaria from Africa, a new malaria vaccine has been introduced in the West African region in a first-ever routine vaccination program. Cameroon started the drive on January 22, 2024, by vaccinating children below the age of five with the RTS,S vaccine. Following the footsteps of Cameroon, many other countries have also opened their doors to this vaccine. Burkina Faso started the campaign on February 5. Similarly, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Liberia will also begin deploying the vaccine in late 2024.

UK-based pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and PATH, a US-based NPO, developed the RTS,S vaccine after long clinical trials and tests. The initial version, which was developed in 1987 in GSK labs, underwent the Phase 3 trial between 2009 and 2014.

The RTS,S vaccine, commercially named Mosquirix, is designed to act against Plasmodium falciparum, a deadly malaria strain very common in the African continent, and prevent it from infecting the liver by targeting the circumsporozoite protein on the sporozoite surface. It was made by combining genes from the repeat (‘R’) and T-cell epitope (‘T’) of the pre-erythrocytic circumsporozoite protein (CSP) of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite with a hepatitis B virus surface antigen (‘S’). GSK researchers also used their expertise from developing the Energix-B vaccine against Hepatitis B to develop the RTS,S vaccine.

WHO has also pre-qualified another vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, developed by UK-based Oxford University and manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), to prevent malaria. This vaccine is expected to be deployed in May or June 2024.

R21/Matrix-M functions similarly to RTS,S vaccine, but it is formulated to reduce anti-hepatitis B surface antigen antibody responses and raise anti-circumsporozoite protein antibody responses. Its initial focus was to induce a high degree of T-cell responses against pre-erythrocytic malaria antigens in the liver. But now, its focus also includes triggering high-level antibodies against the sporozoite stage of the parasite’s life cycle.

This vaccine also has the Matrix-M from US-based Novavax, a saponin-based adjuvant that boosts immune responses, enhances vaccine presentation in lymph nodes near the injection site, and increases vaccine durability and efficiency. This technology was successfully used in the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Novavax.

The new vaccines are effective in preventing malaria

Large-scale clinical trials have assessed the efficacy and safety of both vaccines. Also, in 2019, after the WHO accepted its advisory bodies’ counsel on malaria immunization, RTS,S was rolled out in a pilot program and closely observed within the initial Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP) in Malawi, Kenya, and Ghana. Around 2 million children were immunized during this drive. This helped experts assess the on-ground efficacy of the vaccine. A 2023 article published in Malaria Journal, a peer-reviewed open-access journal of BioMed Central, indicated that the pilot rollout of the vaccine demonstrated a roughly 30% reduction in the risk of developing severe malaria. R21/Matrix-M has a slightly higher efficacy. A 2022 study published in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal, indicated that R21/Matrix-M was 75% effective against both first and recurrent malaria cases following three vaccine doses over a 24-month follow-up period.

While both these vaccines are considered safe by experts, they have some side effects. In the case of the RTS,S vaccine, the incidence of serious adverse events (SAEs) and fatal SAEs was 24.2%–28.4% and 1.5%–2.5%, respectively, across all study groups, according to a 2019 article published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, a peer-reviewed journal of Taylor & Francis. Also, 0.0%–0.3% of individuals self-reported experiencing SAEs as a result of vaccination. The common adverse effects reported in clinical studies were upper respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, and gastroenteritis.

In the case of the R21/Matrix-M vaccine, the common side effects reported in phase 3 trials included site pain (19%) and fever (47%). The phase 3 trial was conducted on around 4,800 children in Tanzania, Kenya, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Some challenges await players willing to invest in the African vaccine landscape

Though the introduction of the new vaccines offers a glimmer of hope to eradicate malaria from African nations, several challenges are waiting for companies willing to invest in this sector.

The complex religious and social beliefs in Africa make vaccine acceptance difficult

One major bottleneck many players can face is the reluctance in African societies to accept the vaccines. This hesitancy is caused by numerous misconceptions and rumors spreading about both vaccines’ side effects, especially in rural areas. A similar issue happened in 2003 when five states in northern Nigeria refused the polio vaccine due to the fear that it rendered women sterile.

A senior immunization officer at Cameroon-based Value Health Africa said that conspiracies and myths regarding the malaria vaccines can be expected. In his opinion, understanding such dynamics in different communities and creating immunization drives accordingly will lead to a larger acceptance of the malaria vaccines.

Many African countries also lack the capability to track and record vaccine side effects, creating concerns about their safety and efficacy. This can also discourage people from receiving the shots.

Players can tackle this challenge by conducting awareness camps and education drives focusing on the positive effects of the vaccine and debunking the myths. Companies should partner with trusted community leaders, religious figures, and healthcare workers to address concerns directly. Also, developing culturally appropriate educational materials in local languages explaining the benefits and safety of vaccines can help build trust and encourage vaccine acceptance. Collaborations with international agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an international organization focused on improving vaccine access to children in poverty-stricken countries, can also increase the authority of these drives.

Infrastructural deficits in the African continent hinder vaccination storage and deployment

Vaccine storage and distribution are another bottleneck players can face. Many African countries face frequent power outages, poor road networks, and inadequate cold chain facilities, making it difficult to get vaccines and vaccinators to target communities. Lack of proper storage facilities can also severely hamper the potency of vaccines.

Also, neither of the malaria vaccines used in Africa are produced in the continent as of now. This adds to the transportation and logistics costs of the companies. Current market players are evaluating many strategies to reduce these costs to make immunization drives more profitable.

GSK, the producer of the RTS,S vaccine, is currently in talks with India-based manufacturer Bharat Biotech for technology transfer, owing to the country’s cost-effective vaccine production.

Similarly, SII is in talks with Nigeria and Ghana to produce the R21 vaccine locally. However, the lack of proper infrastructure and technical expertise makes it extremely difficult for the company to set up vaccine-producing plants in these countries. Currently, it is still profitable for players to mass produce malaria vaccines in other countries, such as India, and then transport them to Africa, even with the additional logistics costs.


Read our related Perspective:
 Vaccines in Africa: Pursuit of Reducing Over-Dependence on Imports

Financial challenges are creating roadblocks to immunization drives

Funding is also an issue in vaccination drives. Substantial funding is typically needed for these programs. For example, according to a 2016 report published in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by Elsevier, the cost of the DTaP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) for a child in Africa can range from US$25 to US$45, without including other logistics costs and requirements. Also, in many African countries, the expenses of vaccination drives are typically paid for by outside donors and organizations. This can make the widescale rollout much more challenging.

EOS Perspective

The malaria vaccination drive is expected to dramatically change the way the African continent fights this deadly disease, especially with 30 countries expressing high interest in adopting the vaccine, according to the chief program officer at Gavi. Till now, the focus of companies and organizations such as WHO has been more on treating the disease, but with the release of the new vaccine, the focus has shifted towards preventing and eradicating the disease from the African continent.

With international organizations and NGOs pushing to expand the vaccination drives to cover the entire continent, the currently competing market players focusing on immunization are in for a huge profit. Players such as GSK, which started research on the vaccine in the 1980s, have years of research behind product development, placing them miles ahead of their competitors. Other interested and capable companies will have to put more effort into R&D to compete with these veteran players.

While only two vaccines have currently received WHO recommendation, several more candidates are in the pipeline, with many in their phase I-IV development. According to the WHO, 133 vaccines are currently under clinical development, and 38 out of them are in active status. An example is US-based biotechnology company Sanaria’s PfSPZ Vaccine, which proved to be easy to administer, well-tolerated, and safe in a small trial on Malian adults. Similarly, Germany-based BioNTech hopes to use its mRNA technology to create a malaria vaccine and launched the early-stage clinical trials in 2022.

Several competitive players now understand the investment potential in the malaria vaccine industry. Since 2002, 221 trials involving malaria vaccines have either been initiated or completed, according to the WHO. This means that competitive and able players who can make early investments in the market might become strong competitors in the near future.

Gavi has reported that, as of February 2024, just 18 million units of the RTS,S vaccine will be available to reach 12 nations through 2025. Though the actual vaccine requirement numbers are not yet known, since the continent is home to over 207 million children under the age of four, it can be safely assumed that the demand for effective vaccination will not decrease anytime soon.

Also, with the establishment of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) set up to create a uniform regulatory framework across the continent, it is likely to become easier for vaccine producers to enter the market, as the requirements, which currently vary from country to country, are expected to be more unified. Currently, 37 out of 55 African countries have ratified or signed the AMA Treaty, and this is likely to increase soon.

Studies are now being initiated to create an effective single-dose vaccine. A preprint of a study by European researchers from Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland jointly researching the single-dose vaccine and its effectiveness was released in bioRxiv, an open-access preprint repository owned by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. However, this study is yet to be evaluated by the medical community.

All in all, joint efforts from international organizations such as WHO and pharmaceutical companies are expected to not only decrease the disease burden but also serve as a foundation for future research into more potent and long-lasting vaccines.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Will Pharma Tweet Louder? 6 Rules of Doing it Right on Social Media

309views

Initially considered to be exclusively a tool for common people to connect with friends and share their private pictures, social media platforms have now gained the status of a potent communication channel eagerly used by companies across the world. While the expansion of social media is influencing the way businesses are conducted today, pharma and healthcare industry has been somewhat slow and reluctant to use it to its fullest potential.

By 2012, Facebook user base crossed 1 billion mark, increasing by 200 times since 2005, while Twitter recorded tremendous growth, reporting 200 million active users sharing 400 million tweets per day. While some industries such as consumer goods, retail, and hospitality have been benefitting from engaging with their customers through a range of social media platforms, other sectors, including pharma and healthcare, have been slow to join the ‘social crowd’.

Points of concern

There is a reason why healthcare-related sectors were late on the social media map. Creating an open platform for communication on health and drugs aspects, raises a range of concerns: the FDA regulations, patient confidentiality, cyber security, unavoidable off-label use discussions, uncontrolled negative comments, and risks of providing wrong medical advice that could lead to lawsuits. The FDA in particular, plays an important role here, through its Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC), which lays out the rules of the content that can and cannot be communicated, what content must be included and the manner in which the communication must occur. The fears associated with social media activity monitoring by the FDA, typically originate from three problems:

  • Lack of clarity and formal guidelines – in 2011, the FDA published draft guidelines, and it is yet to develop definitive rules on social media policy. The FDA is acting slow, and there is no clarity on dos and don’ts for social media engagement, yet the authority regularly scans the social space to monitor risky communication, while pharma companies find the rules of the game ambiguous

  • User-initiated off-label use discussions – a common issue in pharma social media platforms is user questions and discussions on off-label use of drugs, i.e. using a drug in a different way than described in the approved drug label or leaflet. This is considered unsolicited content and companies must respond and correct such a content occurring in public forum as these discussions might encourage dangerous experiments with drugs by patients or might be confused with recommended and approved use of a drug

  • Adverse event reporting obligation – the FDA obliged pharma companies to immediately report any adverse drug effect or reaction they learn about. Social media give platform for large numbers of patients to share their experience with adverse drugs effects, and the companies are afraid they will have to report it, which may cause investigations, bad press, and might lead drug being banned from sale

Similar fears are faced by non-US pharma companies too, as the FDA’s local counterpart authorities introduce similar regulations on communication via social media, which at times can be even stricter than the American ones.

Game worth the candle

Ignoring the risks by pharma companies can unfold a range of undesirable scenarios, a fact that has kept many drug makers hesitant of engaging in social media for quite some time. But this does not mean that pharma and healthcare organizations are still not present in social media at all. To the contrary, pharma companies, healthcare providers, device manufacturers, and health insurers have started to listen and engage with users through social platforms, though many of them still do it cautiously and have still not been able to unlock the social media’s full potential. These players have started to understand that with careful moves, the benefits will outweigh the risks:

  • generate engagement and discussion around health issues, which contributes to the positive reputation and brand image, and obviously – increase sales,

  • get quick, cheap, first-hand information on drugs’ effects on a large scale, which brings valuable insights that are not available from regular clinical trials whose scale is always smaller,

  • gather information invaluable in building marketing strategies, including pointers on price perceptions, drug availability as well as patients’ opinions about competitors’ drugs.

Who’s doing it?

Though it was estimated that in 2011, 90% of the pharmaceutical industry was still inactive on social media, currently, this has changed (though today’s participation share is unknown). Several pharma-sponsored communities are now active across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, on one or multiple platforms, with a differing level of interactivity and different weight being put on inbound versus outbound marketing. Some of the examples include:

  • Roche’s Accu-Check Diabetes Link, a diabetes-support community with information, discussions, and blogs

  • GSK’s Alli Circles well-being, weight loss, and health community

  • Novartis’ CV Voice for cystic fibrosis patients and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia own community-based site CML Earth

  • Pfizer’s community ‘getold.com’ targeting the expanding elderly group of the American population

  • Sanofi US’ Diabetes support community

  • Soon-to-be-launched Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook-based game, where players create and operate their own pharmaceutical firm, and discover imaginary medicines through virtual laboratory

Getting it right

It appears that the healthcare industry is finally attempting to catch up on the social media revolution in spite of a slow start. From primarily information dissemination, it is now moving towards real time engagement between physicians, patients, and other stakeholders. Soon, developing a social media policy will no longer be an option for pharma companies. But this should not be seen as a burden, but rather as an immense opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies to develop trust, build brand image, and impart health education. Drug makers that want to be successful on their social media path should consider 6 basic rules of online presence for pharma companies:

  1. Take your risks seriously – social media engagements, especially in pharma domain, always raise privacy, legal, and confidentiality concerns among the participants and monitoring bodies. Extra cautiousness in operating online communities is of utmost importance, including constant monitoring of the content being added by individual users and patients. Social platforms also pose risk of incorrect drug information or unfair accusations that might damage your image, but it can be flipped to an advantage, using the platform to quickly clarify and avert unwanted comments, provided that you have a dedicated, competent staff handling your social media

  2. Control your speakers – given the high risks and ambiguity of formal guidelines, there is a need for internal policy or guideline book listing dos and don’ts for online communication, content approval process, crisis management practice, confidential information sharing policy for employees running social platforms on behalf of the company

  3. Know your target audience – the social media pharma-related content must stay relevant and target focused groups to have the right impact. Patients with a particular disease or ailment look for relevant, detailed information, and they typically already know quite a bit about the problem. Expertise must be shown along with dedication to creating high quality content, that is useful, new, and (ideally) entertaining

  4. Get the objective right – social media is not another advertising board. The primary aim of the social media presence is to generate engagement as well as share and manage knowledge by facilitating interaction and discussions. This must take precedence over advertising

  5. Be transparent – transparency is always appreciated by consumers and patients. The link with the company must be clear, users working for the company must disclose their affiliation, and negative comments, unless unjustified or vulgar, cannot be censored

  6. Understand that social media are not a lone island – social media activity and content must be aligned with overall marketing strategy and be used cohesively with all other marketing channels, ideally to complement each other. Social media cannot become a neglected child of the marketing department in a long run, it must be maintained actively and linked to other marketing efforts whenever possible (e.g. to disseminate important announcement teasers, generating traffic to blog entries, or provide interactive content as part of larger marketing campaign including traditional media)

Social media engagements by drug makers might seem only as a nice publicity stunt, but it is so much more than that. Pharma companies, as most players across many industries, finally started to realize that listening and engaging with conversation with the customer pays off in many aspects. Just as was the case in consumer goods or retail sectors, social media will continue to change the pharma industry on a large scale. Players who want to matter, should not allow themselves to stay behind, even considering the risks involved.

Top