Pharma Executive Talks Timing, Targeting and Trouble for Disease State Awareness Campaigns

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In the pharmaceutical sector, disease state awareness campaigns are one of the few ways to reach patients and physicians before a product is approved. In essence, they set the table for future marketing efforts at product launch and post-launch.

While some organizations effectively utilize disease awareness programs, others struggle to connect their campaigns to their targeted audiences. As part of a study of current trends in disease awareness, research and consulting leader Best Practices, LLC recently published the study Disease Awareness Program Excellence: Structure, Activities & Resources Needed for Effective Pipeline Support.”

During this study, a Best Practices, LLC senior researcher spoke with a veteran executive with more than 20 years of marketing experience with a Top 20 pharma company.

Best Practices, LLC: You said that you start disease awareness at the end of Phase II – so does that mean that you are starting when you have Phase II data or you actually start while Phase II is going on?

Senior Director, Pharma:  No, we start when we have Phase II data and are heading into Phase III.  That information is then brought to (the appropriate) groups – they’ll be looking at questions like, ‘What is the likelihood we are going to launch?  Do we feel good about Phase II data?’  If yes, then we are going to begin working on more print-campaign kind of stuff.  We are not going to mass media. We also are going to do some internet-based disease awareness.  Then, obviously, once you get into Phase III and you have your first reveals of data, then you are going to be more confident that, ‘Hey, we’re going to see something positive come out of this,’ so they are going to begin to ramp up more disease awareness-type activities.

Best Practices, LLC: You mentioned that one of the disease state awareness pitfalls was spending too much too early – is that a website you are thinking of in particular?

Senior Director, Pharma: Yes, and in a couple of disease states I think we overshot it a bit and then the product didn’t pan out.  I think there is a little bit of learning in that.  It is: scale your activity according to the likelihood of success and once you get these key milestones then you can scale to the next level.  So I think we are trying to do that and, of course, when you are doing disease state awareness often times you are involved in some type of advocacy and you don’t want to over promise and under deliver.

Best Practices, LLC: You end disease awareness three years after a launch.  So, essentially you are doing disease awareness from Phase II all the way to three years post-launch, but you use different activities during that period?

Senior Director, Pharma: Yes. Some of that relates back, particularly in the U.S., with Hispanic populations and some of that is really helping them understand what to talk to their physicians about and where are the locations they can get some help.  One of the things that I think has been interesting to watch has been some of the prostate cancer-type disease state awareness, which has occurred over longer periods of time with different groups.  It has been less product-oriented and that’s why it has stretched longer than most ….  One thing we do know is people who have a disorder or problem are more sensitive to picking things up in the media quickly and are more aware. Obviously we are trying to, at that point in time, grab on to those people because they represent an opportunity. They are being treated, but not effectively or not as effectively as they could be.  So we are going to try to make them aware so that when we launch and our brand communication starts, they kind of have their ears and antenna up, waiting for that launch.

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