Will price wars destroy the possibility of a Patient Sales Force & Patient-centricity?

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Summary: after a decade or more of having the Biopharma industry wrestle to embrace Patient-centricity, and with it the opportunity to create patient demand and loyalty for more expensive, branded treatments, a chasm is growing which could derail it all.

As always, a true issue for marketers can often be the culmination of many discussions, news, interviews, charts and stats. This week an issue that has always been part of the negative dynamic between Biopharma manufacturers, Payers and patients has risen from what seemed like an endless family squabble to a seismic shift in reality that impacts everything we as marketers do — yet is out of our control.


And if price is ALL that matters, then what a patient wants or asks for is moot. The empowered Patient Sales Force needs more support than ever.

This is nothing new, right? Over 70% of all Rx are generics in an attempt to control this rising mountain of expense.

High deductible plans are meant to ‘incent (code word for ‘force’) patients to choose lesser cost versions of branded drugs.

Or for oncology, where so many breakthrough seem to be accelerating and prolonging lives:

But this week, the issue seems to have taken on new momentum. Mr Jimenez, Novartis CEO got right to the point, yet opened up the door for new strategies: “Across the board in the U.S., the pricing environment is more difficult,” Jimenez told the news service. “With a consolidated payer base as well as consolidated providers, you have to assume going forward that price increases in the U.S. are going to be quite limited.”

As FierceBiotech continued: As one example of how Novartis is trying to navigate the new payer landscape, the Swiss drugmaker designed its late-stage studies for the heart failure drug Entresto to deliver the kind of outcomes data that could impress payers. The drug successfully prolonged patients’ lives and staved off hospitalizations, giving Novartis ammo for its negotiations with PBMs and health plans.

Another piece of news came form my brilliant friend, Bruce Grant, who discussed with me the reality that maybe the only path to success in such turbulence might be for Biopharma to reach outside the castle and start making partnerships with payors and hospital systems. Nothing new here, except like a thermometer going up rapidly, this idea was at 98.6 last year, but is reaching fever pitch in 2015.

In the end, Biopharma has lost much of its control over pricing. But many — Janssen, Merck, Novo, UCB — are reaching ‘beyond their borders’ to partake in shared metrics such as outcomes, pay-for-performance data, shared services and several other strategies.

Of course, the industry still struggles with the ultimate in bad-business-models: the leaky bucket of non-adherence.

Are there other strategies or initiatives occurring as I write? Of course. But unless senior management makes it part of the bonus and leads by example, then the family squabble will continue with Biopharma getting squeezed out to the end of the table.

Will price wars destroy the possibility of a Patient Sales Force & Patient-centricity? was originally published on Harbinger Associates

3 Ingredients to create a Patient Sales Force

This is such an important topic that I will provide three case studies in three separate posts. This one will focus on MS Atrium/Aubagio for MS.

Summary: Once again, healthcare tidal forces come into play:

  • The rise of consumerism with the commensurate shifting of cost burden and care to patients
  • Doctor’s lack of time & potential lack of Rx control (only 39% left in private practice, the rest now part of the Master Hospital Network)
  • The proliferation information on the Internet (Dr Google is rising and Apple Kit is here!)

Those and several other trends create ingredients for the rising of the Patient Sales Force — those you empower to ask for treatment and get your Brand. Let’s review what is an inevitable trend and some examples of brands pushing patients this way.

1. Be Transparent

2. Be Evergreen

3. Be More Supportive than your competitor — how they want, where they want.

Three examples will be reviewed: AboveMS.com (Biogen), MS Atrium (Genzyme) and Neurostar/HOPE for Depression (NeuroNetics). This post focuses on a 3rd to market MS oral called Aubagio.

Now, I know the 3 criteria I define are not easy for a Biopharma Brand, but if some are doing it, then poo-pooing as a regulatory problem or too hard to bring to life, you have the wrong attitude. In fact, stop reading and move on to some industry rag that tells you what you want to hear. As a client, as a marketer, every tide rising around you is demanding patients become their own advocates — even MU 2 is forcing doctors to train patients to use the EHR. What makes a Biopharma brand safe from such change?

Auabagio has a great and unique unbranded Web site called MSAtrium.com; between this site and the connection it has to the Branded Aubadio.com site, the story is clear: Patient who are disatisfied, we have the answer. And here is every reason and support to know why you should ask for Aubagio.

What is unique is that this is an unbranded site shared by HCP’s and patients! So, while so many of us have angst over hoe to “drive the conversation” they basically decided: let’s have everyone have the same information. This is empowerment.

The site also is “green” that it is updated with new patient stories, videos, events.

Last, while the navigation and immersive approach is a bit clunky as UX goes, the content is deep and richer than most sites and one can spend a long time — especially if you are an MS patient who tend to be pro-active — in being overly generous with data, vidoes, patient MOA’s, hard science…on and on.

Genzyme doesn’t leave it there, because after all, climbing the 3rd-to-market hill is hard. The site connects to Aubagio, as well as Aubagio.com offers MS Atrium as one of several Patient Respource sites.

Another aspect of what the do very well is use every tactic and communication device known to convince the patient — case studies, free nursing, peer-to-peer videos, events. Much of this was pioneered years ago, but they re-package it with a simple navigation that allows you to chose what stage of Consideration you are at, but on every page, they drive you to make a decision. or at the very least, to take an action.

So, if you click from the unbranded site, Aubagio basically works hard on every

even take on dosing regimen — a big issue in MS that comes form both the side effects as well as the days when only injectables were available. Take a look at how they go head-on with the two market leaders:

Conclusion for post #1 on the Patient Sales Force:

Besides seeing this emerge as a trend, almost a forced change in the healthcare paradigm, I have also been privy to numerous Biopharma marketers claim that Formulary now rules the day. True, but that is exactly why ‘activating’ the ever-searching MS Patient.

And while so many conferences, articles, blogs and content is written on the need for true Patient-centricity, this is not that. This is Patient Activation. This is a hard push. Other Brands should not be shy to be so aggressive. The time of the passive interactive experience is gone, done, irrelevant.

Both sites and the overarching strategy and content should be applauded.

Next post on Patient Sales Force will cover the recently launched Biogen AboveMS.com. Stay tuned!

3 Ingredients to create a Patient Sales Force was originally published on Harbinger Associates