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Patient services are being hailed as the saviour of pharma’s reputation, improved customer insights, the key to increasing compliance and longer-term health management … win-win all round!

Here, three leaders break down how to effectively market these services, and in turn, use their data efficiently for future gain!

Marketing and Customer Experience USA (Nov 14-15, Philadelphia) will delve deeper into patient services and their benefit for customer engagement.


Download your copy of the event brochure now >>>

Pharma companies are now offering more than just the medicine, which means marketers have to go that extra mile too.

We all know the song, but in 2018, the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down is more likely to be sophisticated patient services, as pharma goes far beyond the pill to ensure uptake of their products. From nurse services, to patient hotlines and sophisticated apps, drugs are differentiating themselves not only by their clinical trial data, but by the diversity and ingenuity of the services that accompany them to market.

But what value do these services have to marketers? This added dimension must be impacting the way drugs are being marketed —marketers are no longer merely plugging the drug but instead may focus on these “value-added services” in a bid to differentiate their product in an often-saturated market.

Unsurprisingly, the explosion in value-added services is a direct result of the increasing complexity of drugs. The era of the large molecule biologics heralded this shift, as Bozidar Jovicevic, VP Global Head of Digital Medicines at Sanofi, explains.

“If you look at any biologic in the market you will find extensive patient services. Patient services have become like a ticket to enter the market for biologics,” he tells eyeforpharma.

Such services typically include specialist nursing, patient hotlines, educational material, videos and apps, to name but a few.

Geert Reyniers, Vice President Digital Health Integrations at Novo Nordisk, agrees, saying the traditional model of pharma has fundamentally changed, and with that, so has every aspect of the business.

“Historically, you had lab research followed by animal studies, then clinical trials, then you brought a drug to the market that had a particular indication and it was launched at a certain price and reimbursement condition. Doctors could prescribe it and patients could use it – life was just that simple. But the majority of the really innovative drugs these days are biologics, they are expensive to develop, costing millions to bring them to market. They don’t work in a one-size-fits-all way anymore and are often difficult to use correctly.”

According to Pieter de Muynck, Global Marketing Director at Actelion, the concept of beyond the pill is becoming more important, not only for patients but for all stakeholders. “This has been happening for years with the biologics, say for example in rheumatoid arthritis – because there is so little differentiation between the anti-TNFs for example, physicians choose one over another not because of the data or the efficacy of the drug but because of the extra whistles and bells around it, the services provided in terms of nurses, the information provided to their centres etc. You build a stronger value proposition now – in the old days it was just trying to come up with messages that are very medically focused and data-driven and trying to convince physicians on the efficacy and safety.”

Increasingly, pharma companies are confronted with discrepancies when it comes to their clinical trial results and what they see in the real world, says Reyniers. Additional services, including digital health solutions, can help fill in the gaps to maximize the benefits of their medicines in ‘the real world’.

“In some areas like oncology, you will see big responders and poor responders and non-responders. Because of that big difference there is a need to better identify which patients respond better to treatment than others, and how doctors can predict better responses in some patients than others. The goal is to collect data from these good responders so that RWE can be provided to payers who are more and more reluctant to pay huge amounts of money for innovative drugs in a one-size-fits-all manner. Not because they are not innovative enough but because it is not necessarily clear for whom they work best,” he asserts.

The explosion of digital health services is opening up a whole new avenue for marketers keen to advocate for the merits of a medicine, Reyniers adds.

“Some companies call it drugs-plus or digital medicine, and it has become a way to work with devices and sensors and wearables and connect these with lab results, put all this data together and analyze them through software and analytical tools and techniques. This allows us to come up with dynamic new ways to show that the drugs we bring to market — which we know can have tremendous benefits and be lifesaving — optimally work in the patients we want them to work,” he explains.

The impact of this expanding suite of services cannot be underestimated, De Muynck sees it as offering a plethora of advantages.

“Competition can be tough, differences between products are sometimes subtle and therefore the value proposition must go far beyond just the drug itself.”

De Muynck believes the industry is taking this on board and promoting value-added services in all its interactions with external stakeholders.

“Companies that want to be and stay successful shouldn’t focus on the drug alone, but instead must try to make the overall ‘experience’ as good as possible for the patient. That means looking at things like apps, informational videos, patient support programs, etc. Well developed and implemented beyond the pill services should result in better persistence and adherence and ultimately have a positive impact on the patient’s health and well-being. In the end, this is all about trying to be truly patient-centric.”

The old tenets of marketing are evidently evolving, and marketers will have to get more creative, says Reyniers. Until recently, these value-added services could potentially be used to extend the lifecycle of a drug, but as the boundaries between drugs and technology become increasingly blurred, marketers will have to think about how they embed them into their messages at the earliest stages.

“Today the majority of these technologies are developed after the drug hits the market, often marketed as an add-on or something that can optionally be used in conjunction with the drug,” he explains.

“More and more, these technologies will be built into the clinical development programme of new drugs currently in development so when they hit the market those technologies hit the market at the same time and it may even be mandatory for them to be used together as they are part of the drug label. It is definitely an evolution that is happening rapidly. This impact on marketing is being seen across the lifecycle of a drug.”

A pharma marketer today is a very different animal to a pharma marketer 20 years ago, Reyniers says, adding that this ongoing change can mean it requires an upgrading of marketing capabilities overall.

“First of all, you need to demonstrate that your drug works and market access is your challenge. These tools first of all help you to get market access – this is of course more and more fundamental because without market access you don’t need marketers.”

A new string to the marketer’s bow will be playing their role in educating the users of those technologies, he says. “Some of them are to be used by physicians only, and pharma companies have no experience in educating physicians in technologies so that is brand new. For marketers, the days where you had a drug label that you could promote are maybe not gone, but there is much more coming into play than telling a doctor about the clinical study involving your drug. Doctors play a fundamental role in this in terms of the adoption of these technologies.”

“Selling” the value of these technologies to patients is another consideration, as many of them will be patient-facing in the form of an app. “Often those technologies work with an app or a phone or whatever and go direct to the public. You can do direct-to-consumer advertising in the US but not anywhere else. Marketers may need assistance in terms of co-promotion from the med tech companies.”

Embrace change
According to De Muynck, beyond the pill services open up a whole new world of potential in pharma marketing. “I wouldn’t say it makes it more difficult, it just makes it much more exciting and interesting.  Now there is an opportunity to look more into what the true needs beyond the drug are and to come up with creative solutions that really differentiate the total value proposition.”

The new type of commercial strategy this necessitates will rely on close collaboration between medical and commercial teams and the developers of the technology, he adds.

“I strongly believe in the value of co-creation with HCPs and if possible even with patients. It may make the process a bit longer but it all starts by really understanding what truly matters and what makes sense to the patients and is appreciated ultimately by HCPs.

“It is always possible that you provide a service to patients, but HCPs are not aware of it or don’t value it, or even think it is something you shouldn’t provide as a company. I have seen a few examples of beyond the drug initiatives that weren’t truly valued by patients and physicians and that still cost a lot of money. Before you invest in any drug-plus initiative, at least verify whether there’s a true need and if possible get into co-creation mode.”

Yet Jovicevic does not see them as a major differentiator, saying despite the heavy investment in such services, many are not necessarily outcomes-focused.

“The biggest problem I find with those patient services is that they are not performance-orientated although they cost a lot of money.  Companies providing them often don’t have a way to show that they positively impact people’s health, improving adherence, efficacy, safety. The business impact is not clear – you need to show they are meaningful for patients and the business.”

Reyniers disagrees, however. He believes that the true advantage of these beyond the pill solutions is that, when done well, they reduce the burden of the disease for patients and make it easier for them to go on with their lives. Contradictory to what is often believed, people with a condition don’t want more data, more tools, more apps, more patient programmes.

They want technology to support them to go on with their lives in a way that is least disturbing to them. These solutions can at the same time also collect real-world data to demonstrate the impact they have of patients and the healthcare system all together, which is increasingly important in a world of constrained drugs budgets.

The boon
There are several ways companies can benefit from patient services, says Jovicevic. Evidence of enhanced adherence via real-time information on how the drug is used will deliver increased differentiation of the drug. He also sees intellectual property as a major boon of the shift towards digital medicines. “There may be instances where the services themselves become stand-alone products, and pharma companies begin to charge for that.”

Reyniers wholly agrees, although he believes this is still some years away. “Some of those solutions will become stand-alone solutions that will ultimately turn into a profit-makers by themselves. Some med tech companies are getting there but the question is whether pharma companies will go in that direction… maybe in 10 years’ time I can see some of them beginning to monetise these technologies as a stand-alone product. But today I believe much more in collaborations between med tech and pharma, where the strengths of both can be integrated.”

Right now, marketers can capitalize on the innovative technologies being wrapped around their products, whether old or new.“You are less dependent on how the drugs are being developed, on whether we have the right data… as marketers you have to take a bigger chance to show what you can offer,” says De Muynck. “You can have a bigger impact as a marketer by creating beyond the pill services – really it’s about thinking of all the different stakeholders, from patient."


Effectively integrating digital services into and around the product is the biggest disruption Pharma has seen for years. Make sure you are on top of the game by attending Marketing and Customer Experience USA (Nov 14-15, Philadelphia)

Download your copy of the event brochure now >>>

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Patient Services Bring Pharma into a New Era – Are You Ready?

Lauren Robertson
Global Project Director
eyeforpharma
Phone: +44 (0)2073757201
Email: lrobertson@eyeforpharma.com

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